From: Associated Press
Published August 19, 2005 12:00 AM

SE Asia Seeks Cooperation with China, Japan, South Korea on Environmental Protection

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Southeast Asian countries will work with China, Japan and South Korea to combat ecological problems like the forest fire-generated smoke haze that recently hit Indonesia and Malaysia, officials said Friday.

Senior environmental officials from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to pursue deeper cooperation, including the use of technology, during a one-day meeting in Malaysia's northern Penang state with their counterparts from Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul.

The effort involves sharing our experiences and discussing how technology can reduce environmental problems like the haze," said Huzaimah Yusoff, a division undersecretary in Malaysia's Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

But she said ASEAN had made no immediate request for other countries' help in fighting forest fires that have raged out of control for weeks on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

Details for future cooperation -- which could also cover issues such as climate change and safeguarding biological diversity -- were "not explored in depth" at the meeting, Huzaimah added.


ASEAN officials who met ahead of Friday's expanded talks have established a panel of experts who will meet next month in Jakarta to decide how the region can mobilize its resources more efficiently to put out large fires and deal with any resulting haze, Huzaimah said.

The Sumatra blazes, mostly started by farmers and plantation owners to clear land, obscured skies and pushed pollution up to hazardous levels in parts of neighboring Malaysia last week, before weekend downpours and shifting winds cleared the air.

During the area's mid-year season the smoke blows from Sumatra into Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. This year's haze in Malaysia was the worst since 1997.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Associated Press

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