Malaysian, Singapore law groups plan haze study

K. C. Vijayan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

National law groups from both sides of the Causeway have pledged to look into a cross-border study of the legal aspects of the haze issue.

The move comes in the wake of the first summit between the Malaysian Bar Council and the Law Society of Singapore held in Kuala Lumpur in October.

"The Bar Council observed that both our countries had a common grievance, a common health and environmental hazard, namely the haze.

"It was a clear and present health hazard...," said the Law Society's president, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, in an article in the latest issue of the society's publication, The Law Gazette.

"While we have not finalised the terms of reference or the composition of the group, I envisage that it will analyse how existing laws could be better enforced or made more effective, or suggest new or modified laws or regulations which may give the authorities, corporations or even private citizens in both our countries more weapons and options," he added.

Lauding the initiative and commitment of both Bars to work on an area of common interest, he said it underscored the already strong relationship between the lawyers.

Indonesian forest fires, caused by slash-and-burn agricultural practices largely in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have led to thick smoke drifting across South-east Asia, and this has turned into an annual haze crisis.

It has drawn increased cross-border notice and efforts from governments in the region to address the issue and combat the problem.

A survey released yesterday by Hong Kong-based YouGov Asia-Pacific showed that about 20 per cent of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore suffered health problems due to the haze and needed to see a doctor.

"It is a subject which impacts all of us and I look forward to the output of the joint committee," said Mr Thio.

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