Indonesia lashes out at Singapore in new haze row

Forest fires in Indonesia produced acrid smog that shrouded Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of the region for weeks in 2015 (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesia's environment minister lashed out Monday at Singapore for failing to show "respect" after the city-state tried to question the director of an Indonesian company over last year's haze outbreak.

It was the latest row between the neighbours over the smog-belching Indonesian forest fires that choked Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of the region with acrid smog for weeks.

The blazes are an annual occurrence during the dry season as land is cleared using slash-and-burn methods but they were the worst for some time in 2015, with Singapore particularly angered at what it said was Jakarta's failure to take action.

Tempers frayed again after Singapore last month tried to call in the director of an Indonesian company suspected of being linked to the haze for questioning when the individual was in the city-state, Singaporean media reported.

Jakarta is furious at what it sees as a violation of its sovereignty, and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar stepped up the angry rhetoric Monday.

"The most important principle is that cooperation is done with respect for each country's sovereignty," she told reporters in Jakarta.

"What has been done by Singapore, in my opinion, does not show their mutual respect to Indonesia."

Bakar said she was seeking a review of "of all issues of cooperation with Singapore concerning the environment and forestry".

She also pointed out that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-member regional bloc that includes Indonesia and Singapore, had an agreement to deal with forest fires that was based on cooperation.

Her comments came after Indonesia's Vice President Jusuf Kalla insisted that Singapore cannot take legal action against Indonesian citizens.

The director of the firm called in by Singaporean authorities reportedly did not turn up for the interview despite being served with a legal notice and has since left the city-state. The individual or the firm were not named in the reports.

Singapore is seeking to take legal action under a 2014 law that allows the city-state to levy heavy fines on local or foreign companies that contribute to unhealthy levels of haze pollution in the city-state.

Singapore has also given notices to six Indonesian-based firms, asking them to explain what they are doing to put out fires on their land.

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