On April 26, 2012, human rights defender Chut Wutty was fatally shot during a heated stand-off with security forces and representatives of the logging company Timber Green in the Koh Kong Province while investigating illegal logging and land seizures.
Former deputy director of Global Witness in Cambodia, Chut Wutty founded the National Resources Protection Group (NRPG) in Mondol Seima district, Koh Kong province working to protect the forest and natural resources of Cambodia. Chut Wutty was one of the most prominent anti-logging and land rights activist in Cambodia. Speaking out against land grabbing and corruption by the government and big businesses, he exposed a secretive state sell-off of national parks, by which the government was granting so-called economic land concessions to companies, allowing them to develop land in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Chut Wutty leaves his wife, two daughters and son.
“Chut Wutty’s life work was to defend the rights of forest communities and speak out against the rampant deforestation that is destroying Cambodia’s natural heritage. We want to keep his words and his battle alive.” Fran Lambrick, Co-director of “I am Chut Wutty”, The Guardian
Watch “I am Chut Wutty” the documentary* about the community of activists struggling to defend their forest
* In 2016, Cambodian authorities banned the documentary “I am Chut Wutty” to be showed in Phnom Penh cinemas to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Chut Wutty’s assassination.
On April 26, 2012, Mr. Chut Wutty drove two journalists, Ms. Phorn Bopha and Ms. Olesia Plokhii, from the Cambodia Daily, to the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong province to report on illegal logging and land seizures. Mr. Wutty and the two journalists stopped near a dwelling and began taking pictures of the surrounding. As Mr. Wutty was taking photographs, an unknown man told him to stop taking pictures and to leave the area. When they walked back to Mr. Wutty’s car, they were accosted by two men, one of whom appeared to be a soldier, who told Mr. Wutty and the two journalists that they could not leave until they have spoken to his ‘boss’. The soldier did not reveal his identity or that of his superior. The soldier prevented Mr. Wutty from getting into his car.
Soon after, three armed men dressed in military police uniform and military fatigues arrived on a motorcycle. The situation escalated as the men confiscated cameras from Mr. Wutty and the two journalists. Realising the risky situation they were in, Mr. Wutty tried to drive away but the engine of his car would not start. Soon after agreeing to hand over his own camera, Mr. Wutty finally managed to start the engine and called for the two journalists to get into his car, but the soldiers stood in front of the car to block it from moving. It is at the moment that Ms. Plokhii was getting into the car that gunshots were fired. Neither Ms. Plokhii nor Ms. Bopha, who was in the backseat in a phone conversation with her editor-in-chief when the gunshots were heard, saw who fired the shots.
Mr. Wutty died on the scene. Mr. In Rattana, a military police officer, was found dead lying on the ground in front of the car. The two journalists were briefly detained for questioning by the Koh Kong military police.
“This is a threat to all forestry activists who work for the preservation of the nature.” Neang Boratino, co-ordinator in Koh Kong province for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
Status of investigation
Following a chaotic investigation, the Koh Kong Provincial Court declared on October 4, 2012 the investigation into Mr. Wutty’s death closed, after concluding that Mr. Wutty was killed by Mr. In Rattana, who was in turn accidentally shot by a security officer from logging company Timber Green who was trying to disarm him. This security guard only received a two-year sentence for the “unintentional murder” of the police officer and was released from prison only weeks after his sentencing.
“A shooting leaves the most prominent environmental activist in Cambodia dead, as well as a military police officer, and the result of the investigation is that the one private security personnel who was not armed during the incident gets six months in prison. This is a very chilling precedent for anyone who wants to speak out against the status quo in Cambodia.” Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Director