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Statement in response to killing of prominent Cambodian forest campaigner Chut Wutty

26th April 2012

Statement in response to killing of prominent Cambodian forest campaigner Chut Wutty

We are shocked and devastated to learn of the killing of Chut Wutty, Director of environmental watchdog Natural Resource Protection Group (NPRG), in Cambodia today. Wutty was reportedly shot by members of the Military Police while engaged in field research into illegal logging and land seizures.

"Chut Wutty was one of the most prominent Cambodian activists willing to speak out against the rapid escalation of illegal logging and land grabbing which is impoverishing ordinary Cambodians and destroying the country's rich natural heritage. The extent of the risks he and other activists face has been laid bare in the most shocking and tragic manner.  He will be very sorely missed," said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley. "The national government and international donor countries must publicly condemn his murder and take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Corruption and violence in Cambodia's forest sector has been well documented over many years. The Cambodian government and international donors have collectively failed to tackle this problem, leaving activists from forest-dependent communities and local civil society groups like Wutty standing up for basic human rights, the environment, and the rule of law on their own.

The work of activists such as Chut Wutty should be publicly celebrated as heroic.  Yet the reality in Cambodia is that members of the military, business and political elite, who prey on the country's natural resource wealth for personal profit, view them as a direct threat. As this terrible incident shows, those who take on these vested interests face intimidation and even death. 

The dangers faced by individual activists working on land and forest protection have always been severe; Wutty is not the first to be killed, and sadly, may not be the last. But the stakes for Cambodia's people and its environment are now just as high, as forest and land clearance proceeds at a devastating pace.

The world must not stand by and simply watch.  Cambodia's international donor partners must prevail upon the government, as a matter of urgency, to open up its notoriously murky natural resource sector and hold the most powerful and violent illegal loggers and land grabbers to account.

/Ends

Contact:

London:  Patrick Alley at +44 7921 788 897; palley@globalwitness.org

Washington DC:  Megan MacInnes at + 44 7540 891 837; cambodia@globalwitness.org