Cambodia: Leading environmental activist gunned down
|Publication Date||30 April 2012|
|Cite as||Article 19, Cambodia: Leading environmental activist gunned down, 30 April 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fa776172.html [accessed 26 January 2015]|
ARTICLE 19 deplores the death of Chut Wutty, Director of Natural Resource Protection Group, who was shot and killed with an AK-47 during a police clash on 26 April, 2012. Chut Wutty had been a vocal and ardent campaigner against illegal logging and land grabbing, particularly concerning the Prey Lang forest. Chut Wutty bore the brunt of multiple threats to his life and safety for his environmental work, as he reported to ARTICLE 19 a few months earlier. ARTICLE 19 calls for an immediate and independent investigation into his killing.
Chut Wutty was involved in a police clash whilst driving in Koh Kong province, where military police attempted to stop him and two Cambodia Daily journalists from photographing a commercial development involved in illegal logging. It is also alleged that the military police demanded for Chut Wutty to hand over some footage. When Chut Wutty refused and attempted to drive off, a shoot-out occurred where both Chut Wutty and a police officer were fatally wounded. It remains unclear how the shootings transpired and how both parties were involved. There are multiple conflicting reports surrounding the incident and the Cambodian government must work to clarify the situation immediately.
"The cost of activism, free speech and journalistic work has risen in Cambodia, and Chut Wutty tragically paid with his life. This sends a chilling message across the entire country that to be outspoken on rights issues is to place a target upon one's chest," says Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. "The loss of Chut Wutty is a large setback for the country. ARTICLE 19 sends its deep condolences to his family, friends and colleagues."
The two journalists accompanying Chut Wutty were apprehended by military police and were safely released on the morning of 27 April.
In a January 2012 interview with ARTICLE 19, Chut Wutty acknowledged the dangers associated with his work, but made clear his devotion to the environment in Cambodia. "I will never flee from Cambodia. If one activist leaves the country, then another will go, and then another. You cannot love your country and flee," he said. ARTICLE 19 is saddened over his death, and is deeply concerned over the authorities' recent violent attempts to clamp down on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
There has been a significant rise in threats against activists exercising their right to freedom of expression in Cambodia since the turn of the New Year. In comparison to the preceding years, 2012 has seen an increase in serious physical violence, particularly shootings, directed against activists and human rights defenders.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the government to immediately initiate a thorough investigation of the shooting on 27 April in Koh Kong province, to make the results of the investigation public and transparent, and to bring to justice all those responsible for the deaths accountable.
Although Cambodia has a high level of accession to international conventions, rights violations continue to occur throughout the country. ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Cambodian government to adhere to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, for which Cambodia is a party, and to respect and promote the right to freedom of expression.