A cloud of haze from forest fires has polluted the skies of Malaysia for decades. Year-in and year-out, the Southeast Asian region prepares ourselves and our masks for the haze season.
The looming threat of air pollution coming from the haze is aggravated with the risk of getting sick from Covid-19, which has already taken a toll on Malaysians.
And yet, we see that there is no urgency from the Malaysian government to table the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) in Parliament for discussion. Instead the Act has been completely struck off the agenda.
An imperfect law is better than no law
Forest fires are man-made disasters that could have been prevented. In Southeast Asia, these are mainly caused as forests are being fragmented and cleared, and peatlands are being drained to make way for large scale plantations, primarily for palm oil plantations or pulpwood.
In 2019, a number of Malaysian-owned companies were pinpointed for their part in Indonesia’s forest fires.
Finally after several decades of discussing solutions, Malaysia took a leaf out of Singapore’s THPA to draw up Malaysia’s Act.
The Act was the first concrete step following the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution 2002, an agreement which was ratified in Kuala Lumpur, with Malaysia as its first signatory.
One of the main points proposed for the Act is to include extraterritorial application as taking action against Malaysian-owned companies operating abroad that contribute to the haze.
We believe that this is a good step to ensure companies operate responsibly. Malaysia would have benefited by learning lessons from the limitations of Singapore’s THPA to inform the formulation of a better Transboundary Haze Act for Malaysia.
Join us in calling for the Malaysian government to enact a Transboundary Haze Pollution Act!
Ask for the Malaysian government to enact a Transboundary Haze Act
Diplomatic cooperation between governments in Southeast Asia can coexist with laws that hold domestic companies responsible for international misconduct that affect the region.
Developing a two-pronged approach that combines diplomacy and action-oriented accountability would strengthen our government’s strategy of tackling the haze issue in the long-run.
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