Singapore will take all steps to protect citizens

SINGAPORE - Singapore intends to do what it can within the framework of international law to protect its citizens against the haze, said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

"Our primary duty has to be safeguarding the health, security of Singaporeans," he told Singapore and international media. "We cannot allow this situation to continue, and do nothing and say nothing."

Later, in a separate briefing with local reporters, he said: "We have to take all steps regardless of how it may be viewed by our neighbours... even if it means that our neighbours are upset."

In international law, countries have a duty to control actions within their boundaries when they cause an environmental impact on other countries, he said, citing the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted at a 1992 United Nations conference.

While Singapore will be pursuing this point at ASEAN meetings in Brunei this week, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, signalled it may also be prepared to turn to other international fora to press its case if it came to that.

But first it will see what steps are taken through the ASEAN meeting and whether there are concrete results for Singapore. Asked to elaborate on which other meetings the haze issue could be raised at, he replied: "We will calibrate and decide where else this needs to be raised."

In 2006, Singapore raised the haze issue at a United Nations forum, but this was said to have drawn the ire of some Indonesians.

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