Indonesian police arrest 185 over forest fires

Indonesian police arrest 185 over forest fires
Firefighters try to extinguish brush fires in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. Nearly every year, Indonesian forest fires spread health-damaging haze across the country and into neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. The fires are often started by smallholders and plantation owners to clear land for planting.(AP Photo)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police say they’ve arrested 185 people suspected of starting forest fires that are spreading a thick, noxious haze around Southeast Asia.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said Monday that police formally handed over investigations of 23 people to prosecutors last week, while 45 others will be tried later this month. Police are still investigating the rest.

Prasetyo said the suspects could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that allows a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land.

Indonesian authorities said earlier that they had sealed off at least 42 plantation companies, including a Singaporean-based company and four firms affiliated with a Malaysian palm oil corporate group.

Nearly every year, Indonesian forest fires spread health-damaging haze across the country and into neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.