14 suspects in Riau land fires arrested

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Riau haze management task force has arrested 14 people suspected of involvement in land fires in five different locations in Riau province.

"Until last night we have arrested 14 suspects compared to 10 previously. One of the four suspects was arrested for alleged part in land fires in Bengkalis district and three others in land fires in Rokan Hilir district," the commander of task force`s law enforcement unit, Snr Comr A Sofyan said in Pekanbaru on Thursday.

One of the suspects was identified as Suhartoni alias Aci. He was suspected of burning 100 hectares of land which caused haze in the area around the land and caused visibility to fall to 150 meters, Sofyan said.

The three suspects in land fires in Rokan Hilir were identified as Nasir, Nawir and Jaswin. "The arrest brings the number of suspects to 14. Ten of the suspects who were arrested earlier are undergoing questioning to develop the investigation of the case," he said.

Sofyan said most of land fire cases involved individuals rather than companies.

Almost all of them applied the same modus operandi in that they intentionally burned their land to make way for plantations, he said.

"In total, thousands of hectares of land have been burned. The land mostly belongs to the individuals and plantation companies, while the rest is found in timber estate," he said.

He said security agencies are still after the other suspects.

The Riau haze management task force is made up of 2,000 personnel from the National Defence Forces (TNI), the National Police (Polri), National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), and the ministries of health, social, and forestry.

Haze have been shrouding part of Riau province in recent weeks because of land and forest fires.

Commander of the Riau haze management task force Brigadier General Teguh Rahardjo, said on Thursday based on satellite monitoring at around 4 p.m. on Wednesday six fires were still seen and had the potential to cause haze in several regions.

To fight remaining forest and land fires in six locations in Riau province thousands of soldiers have been sent to the scene.

Teguh, who is also the chief of the 031/Wirabima Military Resort, said the fires based on NOAA satellite monitoring were found in Dumai, Bengkalis and Pelalawan districts.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) station in Pekanbaru, the number of fires in Riau reached 263 but later dropped to 84 on Tuesday and six later on Wednesday. ***2***

Reporting by Fazar Muhardi.