Chut Wutty's son stands near a picture of his father during a commemoration ceremony. (Reuters/Samrang Pring)
Chut Wutty's son stands near a picture of his father during a commemoration ceremony. (Reuters/Samrang Pring)

A journalist’s account of a Cambodian activist’s death

Here’s a quick pointer to a piece in the Daily Beast by freelance reporter Olesia Plokhii, who worked at The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh until May this year. Plokhii’s moving story, “Death of a Forester,” describes the death of Chut Wutty, a Cambodian activist who was shot a few feet away from Plokhii and another journalist, Phorn Bopha, while he accompanied them to an illegal logging site in a protected forest in Koh Kong province. 

CPJ documented the killing of Chut Wutty in an April 26 story, “Cambodian activist killed over possession of logging photos,” and called for Cambodian authorities to thoroughly investigate the violent confrontation that also led to the death of a police officer.

Plokhii described the few days she spent with Chut Wutty in April:

I came to know him as a reclusive, meticulous and compassionate man. I witnessed his outrage at how Cambodia’s woodlands are falling victim to two-faced politicians, ruthless businessmen, lethargic NGOs, and uniformed thugs. I saw the way his own hunger for justice inspired villagers to stand up. His dedication was total. Some nights he would sleep in a hammock in the forest, within range of armed henchmen paid by illegal loggers, his global positioning system in his pocket and his camera at hand, plotting nonviolent counterattacks on behalf of voiceless communities. “It’s in my character to do dangerous jobs,” he said in a 2001 interview. “If I don’t do these things, life won’t be important to me.”

Cambodian journalists have been threatened in the past for reporting on alleged government complicity in illegal logging, according to CPJ research. International environmental groups say the government and the military are frequently complicit in the rampant illegal logging in Cambodia, The Associated Press reported.

Plokhii’s moving 2,600-word account of the episode is still available online. It’s definitely worth a read.