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Cambodian activist's murder investigation dropped

(CCHR/IFEX) - Phnom Penh, 7 October 2012 - The Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") is deeply concerned about the decision by the Koh Kong Provincial Court on 4 October 2012 to drop the case to investigate the murder of high-profile environmental activist, Chut Wutty, and deplores the undisguised political interference that lies behind the decision. The court has dismissed the case on the grounds that the alleged perpetrator, In Rattana, is already dead, and is focusing instead upon prosecuting Ran Boroth, who is alleged to have shot In Rattana dead immediately after Chut Wutty was shot.

Chut Wutty, founder of the Natural Resource Protection Group, was Cambodia's most effective and vocal critic of the wide-spread illegal trade in luxury timber - harvested under cover of economic land concessions from the country's rapidly dwindling forests and jungles. He was shot dead in his car, on 26 April 2012, while accompanying two journalists who were investigating alleged illegal logging in remote areas of the Cardamom Mountains in Koh Kong province.

There are enough question marks over the death of the two men to warrant a full and transparent investigation into what happened that day. The fact that authorities have given several different and contradictory accounts of events - including a ludicrous and baffling version of events that had In Rattana committing suicide by shooting himself twice in the stomach with an assault rifle in remorse for killing Chut Wutty - means that a proper investigation into how he died and who else may be responsible for his death is absolutely necessary and justified. It is the remit of the courts to establish the truth and administer justice, and they have not been given a chance in this case.

CCHR President Ou Virak, responding to the dropping of the case in Koh Kong, comments:

"Many of the officials who benefit from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber were not happy with Chut Wutty. Because of that, I don't think there's any desire by the government and people in power to investigate his murder. This case shows beyond all reasonable doubt that political interference with the courts is rife in Cambodia, but the depressing result is that the military and other security forces will think they can get away with murder. And so they can. If the government is happy for violence and anarchy to increase in Cambodia, then this is the way to go about it. Our role as civil society is to highlight cases of impunity and advocate for justice and truth. This murder should be properly investigated. Our thoughts and sympathies are as ever with the family of Chut Wutty."

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