With her three children sitting beside her in front of their deceased father’s photo, Chut Wutty’s wife, 40-year-old Sam Chanthy, told reporters at her husband’s funeral yesterday that he had barely seen them before his death because he had been so devoted to the cause he fought for.
Her husband was shot last Thursday by a military police officer as he escorted two journalists through the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong province – an area Chut Wutty had passionately tried to defend from illegal logging.
“I am proud of my husband even though he is dead, because he died for the nation. He had already told me before he would have a problem like this,” she said. “I am so regretful, because he was a good person but the government did not see his good actions.”
Chhim Savuth, a project coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and old brother-in-arms of Chut Wutty, said the two used to joke about the rather bleak outlook in their line of work.
“We used to laugh together that there were two ways for Wutty and me, one is to be shot dead and another is to be detained in prison,” he said. “That is our lives and we know it’s ugly, but we still do it because we love the trees, we love the natural resource.”
His son, 19-year-old Chheuy Odom Reaksmey, said he almost never shared meals with his father, but on the rare occasions they saw each other, Chut Wutty had been candid about these ugly possibilities.
“Wutty was the main person that was in charge of the family, and he knew that something might happen to his life, so he educated me how to be a good person in the family and in the nation,” he said.
Supporters from the Kouy ethnic minority with whom Chut Wutty helped defend the Prey Lang forest in northern Cambodia, travelled some 190 kilometres to pay their respects yesterday at his family home in Kandal’s Khsach Kandal district.
More are expected today at the final day of the funeral ceremony, when Chut Wutty’s body will be buried.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org