On Saturday, the family of slain environmental activist Chut Wutty will commemorate the 100 days, or thereabouts, that have passed since his death in a case that remains unresolved even though six eyewitnesses have already been questioned.
The official story is that he was killed by military police officer In Ratana, who was then shot by Ran Borath, a security guard working for the logging firm Timbergreen, which Wutty was investigating, though it took investigators three attempts to settle on that version of events.
Somehow, none of the witnesses who were there at Veal Bei point in Koh Kong province’s Mondul Seima district on April 26 have said they saw the actual killing of Wutty – a divisive, headstrong activist who had many friends – and perhaps just as many enemies.
A masked soldier photographed next to Wutty’s car shortly after he was shot and who rights groups believe might hold the key to finding out what really happened on that day, has still not been called in by investigators.
Wutty’s family want answers, and his son Chheuy Odam Reaksmey said yesterday he was preparing to travel to the Koh Kong provincial court after the ceremony to get them.
“I will find a lawyer to help me on this case to find justice for my father’s spirit,” he said.
Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said those questions centred around what the masked man, whom investigators have not identified, saw when Wutty was shot.
“He’s a military soldier, and to our knowledge, the court has not interviewed him and should,” she said.
Neang Boratino, Koh Kong provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, knows the man as Mr Chhorn and also says another man named Ek So Oen has not been interviewed despite having witnessed the shooting.
“We would like to ask the court to invite the other two people for questioning, because they were at the scene and they were also on the military police report,” he said.
Other witnesses included two journalists Wutty was travelling with, members of the military police, the suspected killer of In Ratana, Ran Borath, and other Timbergreen employees.
The father of Ran Borath, who is now in jail awaiting trial, has denied the allegations against his son.
A five-member special investigation team that curiously included a member of the Council of Minsters Quick and Press Reaction Unit launched a probe into the killings on April 30 and charged Ran Borath four days later.
In the aftermath of the shooting, military police had variously claimed Wutty was struck by an AK-47 assault rifle round that ricocheted off his car and that In Ratana, after shooting Wutty, had then shot himself twice with the same weapon.
Finally, it was announced that as Ran Borath attempted to disarm In Ratana, he shot him with the weapon he was attempting to seize.
Officials have since remained tight-lipped about the case, with those working on the investigation not fielding calls.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith meanwhile said yesterday he had received no updated report, but that it was “already clear [that] who killed him also already died”.
Such explanations provide little solace to the friends and family of Wutty, who are completely unconvinced by official findings and fear the public will never know who killed the tireless activist while he investigated the illegal timber trade.
Filmmaker, conservationist and longtime friend of Wutty, Allan Michaud, said environmental activism in Cambodia had suffered since the killing.
“Its certainly raised awareness a hell of a lot, but in the short term, I think it has had quite a strong impact in reducing [activist] activity just by the fact that it’s scared people,” he said.