To mark the five-year anniversary of the killing of environmental activist Chut Wutty, several dozen activists peacefully gathered by the Royal Palace yesterday to call for an investigation into his murder.
“Justice has not been delivered for him, so we are depending on the spiritual [world] to find justice for him,” environmentalist twins Chum Hout and Chum Hour said before offering their prayers.
A roughly equal number of Daun Penh district police and security officers interrupted the gathering by blowing whistles and by confronting protesters physically. Officials also tore up posters bearing slogans such as “Stop Killing Environmental Activists” after a group of demonstrators began chanting “I am Chut Wutty, we are Chut Wutty”.
Recognised as the most critical anti-logging activist of his time, Wutty was renowned for calling out the military’s alleged role in logging on land concessions in protected areas and related government corruption. He was shot dead while accompanying two journalists in the Cardamom Mountains.
Speaking after the prayer, Wutty’s daughter, Cheuy Solina, called for justice. “I want the government to seek the perpetrator who has killed my father. It has been five years already but the real killer has not been found yet,” she said.
According to the official record, Wutty was shot in a struggle with a military police officer, In Rattana, who was in turn shot unintentionally by security guard Ran Boroth. The Koh Kong provincial court ultimately dropped the case after five months without any hearings on Wutty’s death. Only Rattana’s murder was pursued, which resulted in an 18-month suspended sentence for Boroth, who walked free within two weeks.
Following the prayer, the group watched a live-streamed version of the documentary I Am Chut Wutty on their phones. Director Fran Lambrick ascribed the low turnout to fear. Organisers with the Not 1 More environmental group had predicted as many as 200 attendees.
“Young activists today were afraid to come out even wearing a T-shirt with his face on it,” she said, adding that the lack of closure surrounding Wutty’s death acts as a “licence to kill” others with similar impunity.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin declined to comment on Wutty’s case specifically, but noted that an investigation can be reopened if new evidence is brought to light.
“They can file a complaint to the King, who is the president of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, to reinvestigate the case,” he said.