The man accused of shooting the man who shot environmental activist Chut Wutty last April had been summoned to the Koh Kong Provincial Court to stand trial next month on charges of unintentional homicide, a court official said yesterday.
According to deputy prosecutor Srey Mak Ny, Timbergreen security employee Ran Boroth will appear in court on October 4 to face allegations that he shot military police officer In Rattana while attempting to disarm him after he purportedly gunned down Wutty, a widely admired forest advocate, on April 26.
“[We] have sent [citations] already,” Mak Ny said, adding that the court had called as witnesses “all who have ever been involved in this case”.
The facts surrounding Wutty’s shooting have been muddled from the start, with the government’s official version of events changing at least three times.
What is known is that Wutty, along with two journalists, was in Koh Kong province’s Mondul Seima district, Bak Khlang commune, photographing evidence of alleged illegal logging being carried out in the Cardamom Mountains by logging company Timbergreen when he was stopped by military police and Timbergreen security employee Boroth.
After an argument in which Wutty refused to hand over the memory card of his camera, military police officer In Rattana reportedly opened fire on the vehicle – killing Wutty – and was then shot himself.
The government line initially stated that bullets ricocheting off of Wutty’s vehicle killed Rattana or that Wutty had fired first. Later, the government amended its version to state that Rattana had shot Wutty, then, consumed with remorse, turned his AK-47 on himself – shooting himself once in the stomach and once in the chest.
Finally, a three-day government investigation, which was criticised by rights groups, found that Boroth had accidentally shot Rattana while trying to disarm him.
The two journalists accompanying the activist had fled into the jungle and did not see Rattana’s shooter.
Ly Kosal, Boroth’s lawyer, confirmed that he had received a summons from the court early this week, and that he was ready to appear in court to defend his client.
Kosal added that he expected Boroth to be acquitted, saying his had not shot Rattana himself, but had simply tried to grab the weapon out of Rattana’s hands to prevent him from shooting Wutty.
“My client was just stopping [In Rattana] from continuing to shoot others. If he did not stop him at that time, the action could have caused others to die,” Kosal said.
“While he was stopping him, the trigger pulled and fired two or three bullets, causing [Rattana] to die, too.
“So I think the stopping shows that he did not have intentions to shoot [Rattana] or Chut Wutty; he wanted to help all the people at the incident,” Kosal added, noting that he would be asking the court to acquit his client.
Marcus Hardtke, who had worked with Wutty in the past, said the latest proceedings were unlikely to shed any more light on the circumstances surrounding his friend’s death.
“In the end, the government had four explanations it went through, one after the other, and the final one is the version that is still standing, so I don’t see the court finding anything other than that,” he said.
“To my knowledge, all the people that were interviewed by the court were in one way or another linked to the company, except for the journalist, so it’s quite unlikely anything else will come out of that.”
Hardtke said, however, that he was holding out for the possibility that more evidence could come forward.
“Something else may come to light, but not in this official process,” he said. “There is still a story to be told here.”
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he would “welcome prosecution on the case”, but said it would be a far cry from sorting out the truth surrounding Wutty’s killing.
Virak also called attention to yellow vine processing facilities adjacent to Timbergreen luxury wood stockpiles.
Under Cambodia’s forest law, establishing such facilities is punishable by five to 10 years in prison.
“The company doesn’t want anything they’re doing to be seen by the public. Why is that?” he asked. “Why didn’t the government investigate?”