A Cambodian court has dropped its investigation into the murder of anti-logging activist Chut Wutty, in what can only be described as the latest effort to silence those who criticize the government’s abuse of the country’s land and other resources, said Global Witness today.
Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group (NRPG) was shot and killed on 26th April while researching alleged illegal logging and land seizures in Koh Kong Province. Today’s decision draws an end to an erratic ‘investigation’ which produced as many different and highly questionable explanations of what happened in as many days.
The Cambodian authorities first stated that Wutty had been killed by In Rattana, a military police officer who then killed himself. It was then later claimed that Ran Boroth, a security guard for Timbergreen (a logging company Wutty was investigating) shot Rattana after Rattana had killed Wutty. Boroth will now stand trial for the “unintentional murder” of Wutty’s killer, as the court stated that ‘the perpetrator was already dead’ in the Wutty case
Earlier this week Mam Sonando, an independent broadcaster and long-time critic of Prime Minster Hun Sen, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for supposedly inciting villagers to rebel against the government in eastern Kratie province. His sentence has drawn criticism of increasingly fierce repression of dissidents in Cambodia from governments and civil society.
“What’s happening in Cambodia is extremely alarming. A tiny elite is riding roughshod over the people and the legal system to get its hands on the country’s natural resource wealth,” said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness. “This decision again shows the Cambodian people really have nowhere to turn, because it appears the courts are in the pocket of a violent, repressive regime who will stop at nothing to turn their land into profit.”
Cambodia has seen a sharp increase in repression and violence against activists and journalists in 2012. In May, just weeks after Wutty’s murder, a 14 year old girl was shot and killed by military police. A few weeks ago Hang Serei Oudon, a journalist reporting on illegal logging, was found brutally murdered in the trunk of his car.
This repression is a symptom of the increasingly fierce battle for control of land and forests in Cambodia. Since 2008 2 million hectares of Cambodia’s land has been transferred to industrial agricultural companies, with most of it taken from small-scale farmers. The communities affected have rarely been consulted or compensated.
The international community must publicly condemn this decision by Cambodia’s courts and demand a genuinely independent investigation into the deaths of Wutty and others who have paid the ultimate price for defending Cambodia’s land and forests.
Contact: Oliver Courtney, [email protected] , +44 7912 517 147.