Chhoeuy Odomraksmey is the director of Cambodia's Natural Resource Protection Group (NRPG) and also the eldest son of environmentalist Chut Wutty, who was gunned down while investigating illegal logging in the country's southern Koh Kong province on April 26, 2012. While visiting the United States to mark the fifth anniversary of his father's killing, he spoke with Vuthy Huot of Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service in Washington on June 1.
RFA: It is five years already since your father was shot and killed. The five-year anniversary of your father’s death fell on April 26. How is justice proceeding for your father?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: Up till now, both my family and I have not received real justice. Actually, my family and I have been considered as a scarecrow. We have not been invited for questioning over this case or provided with any update. The Koh Kong provincial court just said that my father’s case was concluded and that they already closed the case. This is because they placed the accusation on an individual named In Rattana as the one who shot and killed my father. Hence, the case of my father, who is a well-known figure, was concluded. It rested with the cases of In Rattana and Rann Boroth.
RFA: Who is Rann Boroth?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: As far as I know, Rann Boroth is a security guard for a company named Timber Green that is responsible for forest destruction in the area where my father was shot and killed…. at Veal Bey, Bak Klorng commune, Mondul Seima district, along the border of Koh Kong and Pursat province. And Rann Boroth has been acquitted. But I don’t know his whereabouts--either he was killed or whatever I don’t know. I believe that Rann Boroth may have the knowledge of this case.
As for the accused murderer named In Rattana, based on my investigation and those of various civil society organizations, it is said that he and my late father used to know each other. Nowadays, I still continue investigating the case on my own.
I also met in person with In Rattana’s girlfriend, whose name I prefer not to mention. She told me that In Rattana used to talk about my father. She said, her boyfriend In Rattana told her that in the past my father helped him land a job and assisted him in other affairs. I then asked her about In Rattana’s character. She told me, he is not such a cruel person who dared to use his weapon to kill my father. She said she believed that in this case there was a third person who first shot my father and then shot her boyfriend from behind so us to eliminate the evidence. I think In Rattana tried to rescue my father. Probably when he saw my father was shot, he might have come to rescue my father. But unfortunately, perhaps after that, In Rattana was shot from behind. What we really want to know is who was the mastermind who gave the order behind the scenes, as my father had been monitored and tracked for a long time.
RFA: So for you, In Rattana, whom the authorities accused of having shot and killed your father, was also shot by a third murderer?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: Yes this is my thought. And it is similar to the scenario put forward by various civil society organizations working on this case.
RFA: If there is still no justice, what will you do? Will you still commit to seeking justice for your father? Do you hope that the court can help or will you take any other measures?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: For me, I want to tell those who killed my father that I am still seeking justice for him. I won’t stop. As for a CIA officer whom I met here in the U.S., he told me that the person who shot and killed my father can escape one time, but cannot hide this for the rest of his life. So I think that justice for my father still exists. Even though we haven't yet received it for now, when the time comes, we will know who the mastermind is. The most important thing is that we want to reveal the mastermind. I also believe that the person who gave the order is not a normal rank and file official. Such individual could be a senior official. As far as I know, he could be a commander. But I prefer not to mention his name.
RFA: So you already have the suspected mastermind in your mind?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: Yes, I already have it… And the person who killed my father will be brought to justice soon.
RFA: Besides seeking justice for your father, do you have any other goals in protecting your father’s legacy?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: Besides seeking justice for him, I am of the opinion that I will resume his work. But so far I have been busy studying so I don’t have enough time to resume this work. But I will finish my studies soon and I will continue to help the Prey Lang community. I cannot let traders, business tycoons or government officials continue to destroy our forest anymore.
RFA: I know you have three siblings, including two sisters. Your youngest sister was just 2 years old at the time your father was shot dead. How is she now?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: As for my sisters, I let them study and stay calm despite the fact that we lost our father. They still have me and my mother. I will strive to ensure that they complete their studies.
RFA: Has your youngest sister ever asked for her father?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: I still remember the time when I took my father’s car from Koh Kong province [after he was killed]. My father always purchased ice cream for my two sisters [whenever he returned home from his work]. On that morning, my sister woke up and she saw his car parked in front of our house. She then asked me about our father’s whereabouts and for the ice cream… I felt so upset. I couldn’t find words to reply to her.
RFA: Now as she is about eight years old, how do you explain to her as she does not have a father to call like other children?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: She always likes me, her brother. She’s always gone to see and stay close to our father’s statue. I told her to keep studying harder so that we can find better employment in future. I've always played the documentary “I am Chut Wutty” for her to watch. I feel she felt much nostalgia after she watched it…. I feel so sorry and pained for her.
RFA: How is your mother? Is she the breadwinner for the family or do you try to study and work at the same time to support the family?
Chhoeuy Odomraksmey: I study while at the same time I also try to work along with my aunt. During my free time, I also try to do my social work. My mom in the past used to sell pork and beef at Prek Eng market. But since my father was killed, she became sick. I told her to stop selling at that market. She then moved to sell groceries at home. So I also help her. Life goes on, but it is not same as when our father was still alive.
Translated by Sovannarith Keo.