A private security guard has been charged with the death of a military police officer who allegedly killed anti-logging activist Chut Wutty in a remote Cambodian forest, a rights group said Friday, amid lingering questions over how the two were gunned down.
The Koh Kong provincial court charged Rann Borath, the Timber Green logging company’s chief of security, with “unintentional murder” in a hearing on Friday, Cambodian watchdog LICADHO’s provincial coordinator Ing Kongchet told RFA.
The charges against Borath came as a multiagency investigation continued over the April 26 killings.
Chut Wutty was found shot dead as he led local journalists to what he believed was an illegal logging site. Military police officer In Rattana, who some said shot the activist, was also found dead at the scene.
In the days after the incident, a military police spokesman had given conflicting statements about how In Rattana had died, including that he had committed suicide, that he had shot himself twice by accident, and that the activist had shot him.
In the court session on Friday, prosecutors offered a new explanation, saying that after In Rattana had shot the activist, Rann Borath set off the officer’s rifle while trying to take it from him, killing the officer.
Rann Borath, who was apprehended Tuesday, is in detention, Provincial Prison Director Kry Tha said.
The incident has sparked a public outcry as it was the highest-profile death of a Cambodian activist since the 2004 assassination of labor activist Chea Vichea, whose killers have never been found.
Cambodia’s Council of Minister Spokesman Tith Sothea said that the official results of the probe into the case will be made public Saturday to clear any concerns.
“I think the investigation result is accurate and will clear any suspicions,” he said.
President Hun Sen had ordered a probe into the two men’s deaths on Monday, following calls from Cambodian and international rights groups for an impartial investigation.
But Cambodian NGOs have expressed doubt about the official probe.
Cambodia-based rights watchdog ADHOC said in a statement Friday that the investigation “demonstrat[es] an apparent lack of impetus towards seeking justice.”
The group warned it is likely that Chut Wutty’s death “will be pinned on low ranking officers or security guards, and the high ranking officials/heads of company, who are truly to blame, will go unpunished.”
The organization said it recognized the multi-agency committee as a “positive step,” but said it remains “skeptical” about the composition of the panel because it includes members of the military police, an institution implicated in the case.
LICADHO Senior investigator Am Sam Ath said NGOs will continue to monitor the case.
“The investigation result reveals that In Rattana killed Chut Wutty and Rann Borath tried to take the gun and then set it off and killed In Rattana. That is the result of the authorities’ investigation, but civil society groups will continue to monitor the case,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.