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Shooting suspect to face court

Shooting suspect to face court

Photo by Will Baxter/ Phnom Penh Post

Mourners toss riel notes into the coffin of slain environmental activist Chhut wutty at his funeral in Kandal province.

A suspect in the shooting incident that left environmental activist Chut Wutty and military police officer In Rattana dead last week in Kok Kong province had been sent to court, a military police official said yesterday.

Sun Samoeun, deputy military police commander in Koh Kong province, said Ran Boroth – a security guard from the company Timbergreen – had been sent to court, but he could not confirm whether the suspect had been charged.

Mok Chito, the head of the central judicial department at the Ministry of Interior, who has been placed in charge of a joint investigative committee examining the case, said military police officer So Sopheap had also been brought in for questioning on Wednesday.

“We are still questioning Ran Boroth, and we have also spoken to a lot of people who know that story,” Mok Chito said, adding that every witness to the shooting would be called in for questioning before the results of the investigation were released in three or four days’ time.

Neang Boratino, provincial co-ordinator of the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the joint committee had taken Ran Boroth back to the scene of the crime to perform a re-enactment of the shooting.
“The committee asked him to imitate what he did on that day, and they took a video clip of his action,” he said, adding that Ran Boroth and In Ratt-ana had been close friends.

The shooting took place last Thursday at Veal Bei Point, in Mondul Seima district, after Chut Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, stopped in the area to photograph stockpiles of wood with two journalists.

What happened next remains unclear, but military officials have said at least one man from Timbergreen, a company clearing the nearby Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site, tried to stop Chut Wutty from taking photographs before military police intervened.

Chan Soveth, senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, which has been investigating the incident, said the joint committee had excluded provincial police and military police from joining the investigation, a decision that he welcomed.

“NGOs will discuss their own [joint] investigation and plan to issue their [report of the] joint investigation next week,” Chan Soveth said.

In a statement released yesterday, the US embassy joined the chorus of international concern over the shooting of “one of Cambodia’s most prominent envir-onmentalists and staunch human-rights defenders”.

“The United States remains concerned about the use of force to curb the actions of individuals seeking to peacefully shed light on important issues like illegal logging,” the statement reads.

Chut Wutty embarked on unending campaigns against illegal logging and other threats to Cambodia’s envir-onment across the country, directly confronting those he accused of corruptly exploiting natural resources.   

He had long alleged that the Timbergreen company was abusing dam reservoir-clearing permits to run illegal logging rackets that cut luxury timber far outside the boundaries of their licence.

Timbergreen holds the licence to clear the more than 14-square-kilometre reservoirs of the two-level, 338- megawatt Lower Stung Russey Chrum, in Mondul Seima district, and the nearly 20-square-kilometre reservoir of the 246-megawatt Stung Tatai dam, in Thma Bang district.

Construction of the dams is contracted to the Chinese state-owned firms China Huadian Corporation and China National Heavy Machinery Corporation, respectively.

As of August, 2010, Timbergreen’s shareholders included Khieu Sarsileap (57.5 per cent), Hou Hab (27.5 per cent) and Huy Theara (15 per cent), according to the company’s Ministry of Commerce registration.

Khieu Sarsileap did not answer the phone yesterday and contact details for Timbergreen, Hou Hab and Huy Theara could not be found.


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