Jakarta – Haze that has blanketed parts of Malaysia and forced the closure of schools came from forest fires in that country, and not from Indonesia, the government in Jakarta said on Wednesday (Sept 11).
The authorities in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo island were forced to close more than 400 schools after air pollution reached unhealthy levels as a result of haze blamed on forest fires in Indonesia, Malaysian media reported.
But Indonesia's Forestry Ministry said satellite images taken last week indicated the presence of forest fires in Malaysia.
"There has been a sharp increase in hot spots in parts of South-East Asia, not only in Indonesia but especially in the Malay Peninsula and parts of Vietnam," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
There were 1,423 potential fires registered on the Malaysian peninsula last Saturday, an increase from 1,038 the previous day, the ministry said, adding that was also a spike in the numbers in Sarawak.
Indonesian Environment Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar accused Malaysia of not being transparent about its own forest fires.
"I will send a letter to the Malaysian ambassador," she was quoted as saying by Tribunnews.com. "I think they should correct their data."
Ms Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia's environment minister, said she and other officials met staff at the Indonesian embassy on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
"Malaysia reiterates its concern on the impact of persistent trans-boundary haze to the Malaysian public and its offer to assist Indonesia in extinguishing the raging forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra," she said on Facebook.