Investigation into Riau forest fires continues

Investigation into Riau forest fires continues
Indonesian workers from a palm oil concession company extinguish forest fire in Kampar district, Riau province.

INDONESIA - A Malaysian company accused of being responsible for recent peatland and forest fires in Riau is still under criminal investigation, the province's top police officer has said.

Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Condro Kirono said during a hearing with members of the House of Representatives Commission IV on Tuesday that his force was now investigating a subsidiary of Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhard, PT ADEI Plantation and Industry (API).

"Based on our initial investigation, we found that API was burning peatland in order to open a new plantation. We are now trying to name who is responsible, whether it's the company director or another person," he said.

Condro said the police had learned that API asked several individuals to burn a plot of peatland and that the company did not have the capability to prevent fires on its plantation area.

In addition to API, seven other companies are being investigated by the Environment Ministry for their possible culpability in causing forest fires. It remains unclear whether they have been cleared of the allegations.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya previously said that 14 companies were believed to be responsible for forest and land fires in Riau, but then the investigation narrowed the list down to only eight companies.

Condro said that from total reports filed with the Riau Police, most forest and peatland fires were started by individuals. He said that in a total 22 reports on forest and peatland fires filed from January to September this year, API was the only company mentioned.

However, Sudin, member of the House Commission IV from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said during the hearing that there might have been many more plantation firms involved.

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