Canadian journalist Olesia Plokhii was one of two journalists from the Cambodia Daily who went with environmentalist Chut Wutty to the remote jungle mountains of Koh Kong province in April.
ARLINGTON, Va - Canadian journalist Olesia Plokhii was one of two journalists from the Cambodia Daily who went with environmentalist Chut Wutty to the remote jungle mountains of Koh Kong province in April.
The trip was meant to be an investigation of illegal logging in the area, where criminal enterprises also gather rare forest plants used in the production of illicit drugs.
In a video talk from Boston, delivered via Skype to a group of Cambodian-Americans in Arlington, Va., Plokhii described Friday how the trip turned into a nightmare, with Chut Wutty shot dead and she and another journalist fearing for their lives. She was among a handful of speakers to address the group, which gathered to mark the anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.
In her first public appearance since the April 26 shooting, Plokhii told the group she does not believe Cambodian authorities, who say Chut Wutty was shot dead by a military policeman, who was himself accidentally killed by a timber company security guard. That guard, Rann Borath, was given a commuted six-month prison sentence on Monday.
“I do not believe that Borath shot Rattana,” Plokhii said, though she said she did not see the shooting firsthand. “First of all, the shots were fired very fast. There was not time for that to happen. Second of all, Borath was not armed, and why would he supersede other officers at the scene and take drastic action?”
Plokhii said she and her Cambodian colleague were spared, though they heard threats and were worried at one point they would be killed too. While they were there it was obvious that authorities at the jungle checkpoint where the shooting took place were working to cover up what happened, she said.
“This is a very good example of injustice in Cambodia,” she said. “It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last.”
Members of the special government committee formed to investigate the shooting could not be reached for comment. The findings of their investigation, which led to the arrest of Rann Borath, have been widely viewed as implausible.
Plokhii said Friday she herself was not threatened after the shooting, but neither did she feel safe remaining in the country. “I felt very afraid, and also I need psychologically to be away from Cambodia.”