The wife of slain environmental activist Chut Wutty today rejected early police accounts of the circumstances around his shooting death, saying she believed he had been targeted for death for his work in protecting Cambodia’s endangered forests.
Speaking to the Post by phone, 40-year-old Sam Chanthy, said that her husband had been at the exact site of his death in Koh Kong province little more than a month ago, where he had been in conflict with military police officers as he attempted to examine a cache of illegally logged timber.
“I think there were third persons involved with my husband’s killing. They prepared a plot to kill him because his work was affecting their interests.
“Those people were not happy with my husband and his work …so they planned to kill him when he went there again,” she said, referring to Veal Bei Point in Mondul Seima district’s Bak Khlang commune.
In Kong Chit, Koh Kong-based coordinator for rights group Licahdo, said that according to a copy of the police report he had seen, military police officer In Rattana shot Chut Wutty, then committed suicide by shooting himself twice with his own AK-47 rifle, first in the stomach and then the chest.
“I think this report is unbelievable. We will continue to investigate and research about it,” he said.
According to the report, when Chut Wutty attempted to drive away after refusing to turn over his camera’s memory card, In Rattana fired a single bullet, which entered the activist’s body at the knee and traveled upward into his stomach, killing him instantly.
While police say a gun was found in Chut Wutty’s possession, there was no indication it had been fired.
Thong Narong, commander of the Koh Kong provincial military police, refused to divulge details of the emerging police narrative of events, but confirmed to the Post that a medical examination had revealed a single AK-47 bullet had struck Chut Wutty in the knee, while In Rattana was wounded in the stomach and chest.
Two Cambodia Daily journalists who had accompanied Chut Wutty on the trip, Phorn Bopha and Olesia Plokhii, were released this morning following police questioning, he added.
Speaking to the Post, Phorn Bopha said that she and her colleague had been released at 9:30 a.m.
“I am safe and was not wounded,” she said by telephone. “We now are traveling back to Phnom Penh.”
Chut Wutty’s family, meanwhile, claimed his body in Koh Kong today and said that it will arrive at his birthplace – Svay Meash village, in Ksach Kandal district’s Vihear Sour commune – at about 7:30 this evening.
“I am still in shock that my husband was killed. His death is a big loss in my family and also the loss of a valuable and great person in Cambodia,” Sam Chanthy said. “To find truth and justice for my husband, I would like to ask the concerned authorities and human rights groups…especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, to take action and arrest the persons who were involved or behind my husband’s killing.”
A funeral service is planned for Sunday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]