“Okay shoot me!” Chut Wutty said to In Rattana, the military officer who was threatening to kill him if he did not give away his memory stick full of pictures. That’s all the Cambodian justice system decided to disclose about the argument that preceded their killing last April 26 in the Cambodian southwestern province of Koh Kong. Both were found dead on a dirt road next to the facilities of the logging company Timbergreen. Chut Wutty, one of the most outspoken voices against illegal logging wanted to show two Cambodia Daily reporters that the company was also processing yellow vine. In Rattana was there to protect Timbergreen property – on this logging project, military police and security guards work hands in hand.
On October 4, the Koh Kong municipal court decided to drop the case of Wutty’s death but to investigate Rattana’s. The Phnom Penh Post reported that the judge argued that the “perpetrator was already dead” in the case of Wutty. According to the Court, it is clear that In Rattana shot Chut Wutty. In a move to disarm him, Ran Boroth, a security guard for Timbergreen, confirmed to the Court that he shot Rattana. But this is not the opinion of a close family member of the environmental activist: “I know In Rattana was acting normal and not fighting against Wutty. He is not the one who killed him and I don’t believe either that Ran Boroth shot In Rattana,” he told Asian Correspondent, insisting that the case should be reopened.
Deeper investigations are also requested by local NGOs in Koh Kong province. A representative for the Koh Kong branch of the human rights NGO Licadho said “what has been stated in Court is not the right version and there is still no justice for Wutty”. This was echoed by Mr. Boratino, Koh Kong representative for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (Adhoc): “We are still wondering who killed Wutty and the information given was not clear enough to get justice for Wutty. Moreover, the governmental investigation committee has been changing its mind“.
According to the first statement given by the Koh Kong authorities, bullets ricocheting off of Wutty’s vehicle killed Rattana or Wutty had fired first. Then, the government line became that Rattana killed himself when he realized he killed Wutty. On May 1, an investigation committee was set up by the government after a public outcry, and concluded three days later with the version we know today. Two weeks later, a hearing was organized in Koh Kong to get one Cambodia Daily reporter’s testimony.
During the one and half hours of the October 4 hearing, Ran Boroth testified that he disarmed Rattana to “protect other people” but he had “no desire” to shoot him for they were friends. Police Lieutenant General Mok Chito, appointed by the government to lead the investigation, supported his statement by insisting on the fact that Boroth wanted to protect the two journalists. In an account given by Olesia Plokhii, one of the Cambodia Daily reporters, she and her colleague heard “menacing military police” say “just kill them both”. Boroth supposedly confiscated the gun before Rattana could fire at them. A verdict will be given on October 8. Ran Boroth is accused of manslaughter and risks between 1 and 3 years in jail.
According to NGO monitors present among the small dozens of people attending the hearing, only 2 witnesses showed up in court out of the seven witnesses needed to shed more light on the facts. None of the medical examiners or the “masked soldier” who could be a key witness were called in by the Court .
“Nobody left the site when the shooting happened. It should be an easy case to investigate. I just wait and see. I know that justice will come for Wutty in the future,” concluded Wutty’s family member.