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Little Progress in Murder Case of Slain Activist

Chut Wutty, a prominent Cambodian anti-logging activist who helped expose a secretive state sell-off of national parks was fatally shot on April 25, 2012 in a remote southwestern province, FILE February 21, 2012.

Three months after the murder of environmental activist Chut Wutty, little forward progress has been made in the case.

PHNOM PENH - Three months after the murder of environmental activist Chut Wutty, little forward progress has been made in the case.

Family members say they have heard little from the court that is supposed to be investigating his deadly shooting, even as they organize a 100-day funeral ceremony.

Chut Wutty was shot and killed April 26 in the Cardamom Mountains of Koh Kong province, as he escorted two journalists looking into illegal logging there. A military police official, In Ratana, was also shot and killed in the incident. A private security guard, Rann Borath, was arrested and accused of accidentally killing the In Ratana after the policeman killed Chut Wutty, but skeptics say the scenario was implausible.

“I am worried,” said Hun Rann, Rann Borath’s father. “But I don’t know what to do beside waiting for the trial.” He said he doubted his son was to blame for In Ratana’s death.

Hun Rann’s worries are shared by the family of Chut Wutty.

“We know nothing from the court,” said his oldest son, Chut Ouddom Reaksmey. The family will hold the 100-day ceremony on Saturday, he said, “and afterward we’ll think about it again.”

Meanwhile, rights groups say they are concerned the case will eventually disappear if the court does not move it forward. So far, only six of nine witnesses have been questioned in the incident.

Witnesses have been able to put together much of what happened that day. Chut Wutty, escorting two journalists from the English-language Cambodia Daily, was stopped at a checkpoint attended by military police, including In Ratana, and private security guards of Timber Green. When Chut Wutty refused to turn over his camera, an argument ensued.

What happened next remains unclear. Gunshots were fired, Chut Wutty was fatally shot while he sat in his vehicle, and In Ratana lay dead on the ground in front of the vehicle. No clear picture of how it all happened has emerged.

Key witnesses that might tell more have not been called, said Neang Boratino, the Koh Kong provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, who has been investigating the killing.

“There were nine witnesses questioned by the gendarme, and now the court has questioned only six of them,” he told VOA Khmer. Two remaining witnesses were military policemen in the employ of Timber Green, he said, and one of them was the man who originally stopped Chut Wutty’s vehicle.

Min Makara, Koh Kong’s investigating judge, declined to give details of the investigation and questioning of witnesses and would not confirm whether a hearing will be held.

Koh Kong’s deputy commander for the military police, Sun Samoeun, has since been quietly dismissed. Rights workers say he may have been linked to Chut Wutty’s death.