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Two years on, Cambodian rights group mourns environmental activist, denounces culture of impunity

Two years on, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") marks the second anniversary of the murder of Chut Wutty on 26 April 2012 and mourns his loss. To honor his passing, CCHR attended an event organized by the Natural Resource Protection Group at Veal Bei village, Paklorng commune, Modul Sema district, Koh Kong province where Chut Wutty was killed, to commemorate his death. CCHR encouraged the public to join in paying our respects at the event, which saw activists, supporters and monks from all over the country journeying to Koh Kong province to offer prayers and blessings in remembrance of a man who dedicated his life to protecting the Kingdom of Cambodia's ("Cambodia") forests.

Chut Wutty was the founder and director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, and was Cambodia's foremost environmental and anti-logging activist. While accompanying two journalists to investigate alleged illegal logging and land grabs in Koh Kong province, Chut Wutty was fatally shot in the leg and stomach as he tried to start his car, following a heated stand-off with military police and representatives of logging company Timber Green. The alleged shooter, In Rattana, was also found shot dead at the scene.

To date, no credible, transparent or independent investigation has been launched into the two deaths, and as such several questions remain unanswered. Authorities provided various conflicting - and mostly ludicrous - accounts of the deaths in the following days, and the Cambodian courts have failed to shed any further light on events since. The Koh Kong Provincial Court declared the case closed on 4 October 2012, thereby depriving Chut Wutty's and In Rattana's families of justice, while simultaneously revealing that the culture of violence and impunity that pervades Cambodia continues to prevail.

In order to ensure that justice is served, that the judiciary can salvage some credibility, and, most importantly, that the Cambodian people are reassured that the Royal Government of Cambodia (the "RGC") is willing and able to tackle the existing culture of impunity, CCHR urges the authorities to reopen the case and ensure that a full, transparent and independent investigation is allowed to proceed. The RGC has the responsibility to investigate the two deaths in order to uphold the right to truth, justice and remedies.

On 26 April, CCHR Human Rights Defenders Project Coordinator Chhay Chhunly commenteds:

"Today our thoughts are very much with Chut Wutty's family. Wutty was a courageous man, who bravely undertook the mission of defending Cambodia's land and environment. If those who felt threatened by Wutty's activism hoped his death would suppress activism in the country, the fact that others continue to fight for their rights illustrates that the activists of Cambodia will not be intimidated into submission. For the past two years land and environmental activists have courageously continued their work, while the RGC has been perpetuating impunity."

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