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Committee To Investigate Environmentalist’s Shooting

The Cambodian government says it will establish a joint committee to investigate the killing of environmentalist Chut Wutty and a military policeman last week.

Military police commander Sao Sokha told VOA Khmer on Monday the committee will include officials form the ministries of the Interior and Justice, as well as the Council of Ministers and the military police.

Chut Wutty, 48, and two local journalists had been investigating illegal logging at a remote area in the province when they were stopped by security forces who demanded their cameras.

Shots were fired after a lengthy argument between Chut Wutty and the officials, who appeared to be military policemen. Chut Wutty was ultimately fatally wounded along with the military policeman, In Ratana.

Authorities had said last week that In Ratana had fatally shot Chut Wutty then turned the gun on himself, but witnesses say he was shot twice in the chest, making that unlikely.

Sao Sokha said the investigation will uncover the “real situation” behind the shooting, but he did not have details to when the investigation would begin.

Chut Wutty’s son, Cheuy Oudom Reaksmey, said he did not believe the killer was In Ratana, or than In Ratana had shot himself twice, and he called for a full investigation to bring the killer to justice.

“I would like to request both the international and national communities find justice for my patriotic father,” the son said Friday, as he wept. “He’s well known in Cambodia, so please find him justice, find the real killer.”

Chut Wutty was the director of the Natural Resource Protection group and had acted as an environmental advocate and researcher. He had been sharply critical of government officials and military forces engaged in deforestation.

“I conclude that the shooting of Wutty was to shut him up by businessmen and powerful people who are doing business in the central Cardamom forest, because he was once arrested there,” said Chhim Savuth, a project coordinator with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who worked closely with Chut Wutty on educating forest communities about their rights to protest their land.

Chut Wutty had been threatened in the past, but he could not be stopped, nor bribed, said Marcus Hardtke, a program coordinator for ARA, a German conservation group that supported Chut Wutty’s work.

Hardtke said the “biggest tragedy” would be for others “not to stand up, not to speak up,” he said. “It would be the opposite of what he wanted. People should take him as an example. We need a few thousand Chut Wuttys now in Cambodia.”