The Police of Riau have arrested 23 suspects in connection with forest and peat land fires in the province that have caused blanketing haze over the Sumatran region and some neighboring countries.
Spokesperson of the Riau Police Command, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Hermansyah, said here that two more suspects had been arrested following reports from local people making the number of the suspects to reach 23 who are all now under police detention.
The last two suspects namely Ham, arrested in Tanjung Leba Village, Bukit Batu Subdistrict of Bengkalis and BA, arrested in Sang Kemang Village, Koto Gasib Subdistrict of Siak District.
“However, we haven’t received data about the areas that had been burned. The crime scenes varied,” Hermansyah said.
The 23 suspects have allegedly caused forest and land fires in 15 areas located in some districts in the Riau Province.
Besides Ham, there were five other suspects arrested by Bengkalis Police, namely Subari (46), Hartono (35), Ali Imron, Ali Umar and Atim.
In Rokan Hulu District, 11 suspects in four cases had been arrested, namely Hotman Purba (56), Ketiman, Sukadi, Aswin, Rizal, Heriyadi Saputra, Eka Budi Arianto, Marlin Nasution, Mohammad Yasir, KH Johari and Abdul Wahab.
Two suspects, Sumardi (42) and Shokai Autlo were arrested by Pelalawan District Police.
The Siak and Dumai District Police respectively arrested two suspects.
“The 23 suspects are being detained in their respective district police offices for investigation. The number of suspects might still increase,” Hermawan said.
The Police are coordinating with the Ministry of Environment to investigate any indication of involvement of companies in the forest fires.
Meanwhile, the Riau Health Office’s Environmental Health Section Chief Dewani said about 10,382 citizens in Riau Province have been suffering from acute respiratory infections (ISPA) due to haze that has hit the area since the past several weeks.
Among the areas that have the most number of victims are Indragiri Hulu District (2,863 people), Dumai city (1,554 people), Bengkalis District (1,438 people) and Siak District (1,183 people).
However, the air quality index in Riau continues to improve in line with the declining number of hotspots following fire fighting operations.
Natural Disaster Mitigation Agency’s Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said efforts to fight land and forest fires are still continuing including through water bombing and artificial rain making.