KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Indonesia will impose the maximum death penalty on illegal loggers because they contribute to the haze menace, its Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim said here Thursday.
Indonesian law-makers were in the process of enacting the new law despite strong opposition from lobby groups who thought the penalty was too harsh, visiting Indonesian minister told reporters at a media briefing here after calling on his Malaysian counterpart Adenan Satem on Thursday.
"The Ministry of Forestry is preparing the law and we want to implement it as soon as possible," he said, adding "the maximum penalty for illegal logging is death and minimum (punishment) is 12 years."
Nabiel said illegal logging was a major contributor to the haze because fires easily broke out once the land was cleared, unlike in virgin forest due to the moisture, and that it was a difficulty to halt the fire as hot spots were often located deep in the forest.
"It takes about one-and-a-half days' walk to reach the hot spots and equipment are difficult to be transported into the forest and they become useless," he added.
The move comes in the wake of the recent recurrence of haze, caused by forest fires in Indonesia, which shrouded major parts of Malaysia and once again created environmental hazards.
He said the government had also set up the "Manggala Agni Unit," a Forest Fire Brigade, to tackle forest fires and the unit was expected to coordinate with local authorities and the people.
Asked whether Indonesia would sign a joint treaty of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to tackle the haze which had become an annual phenomenon in the region, he said the issue had to be studied in totality.
"We would like to see not only (a treaty on) haze but the conservation of tropical forest in the ASEAN region. One cannot tackle the problem in pieces. We want to see a treaty of forest management in the ASEAN," he added.
In 1997 and 1998, the haze mostly from forest fires in Indonesia enveloped parts of Southeast Asia, causing serious health problems and badly affecting tourism.
Subsequently, six ASEAN member states signed the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement which was enforced last November. However, Indonesia, major contributor to the haze problem, has not signed the agreement. Enditem