Thursday, May 3, 2012

PM approves Chut Wutty inquest


Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday signed off on the creation of a joint committee to immediately begin investigating the shootings of activist Chut Wutty and military police officer In Rattana, but publicly remained silent about the high-profile case during a speech.

Mok Chito, head of the central judicial department at the Ministry of Interior, will lead the committee to investigate what really happened after environmentalist Chut Wutty encountered military officials while investigating illegal logging in Koh Kong province on Thursday.

“We will do a clear investigation; we do not care about the first reports that were issued by military police,” Mok Chito said yesterday.

Thus far, a series of contradictory accounts have been given by the military police, most recently concluding that In Ratanna shot Chut Wutty and then, realising what he had done, turned the weapon on himself.

Mok Chito will be joined by Sin Sophany, deputy national military police chief, and Kim Santepheap, deputy general of the Ministry of Justice’s technical department.

Tith Sothea, deputy director of the Council of Ministers Press and Quick Reaction Unit, and Som Seban, a deputy department head at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspections, have also been included.

The composition of the five-man team was criticised by rights groups yesterday who said it was top heavy with politicians, devoid of judicial or investigative experience and light on actual technical ability.

Chan Soveth, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, asked why the only member with any experience investigating big crimes was Mok Chito, a member of the military police.

“I’m wondering why the government allows national military police to join in this committee, because it was their officers that were involved in that case,” he said.

Military police officials were present during the shooting at Veal Bei Point in Mondul Seima district near the lower Stung Russey Chrum dam project.

Sok Sam Oeun, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, suggested a committee had been formed because the government did not trust the current legal mechanisms in place.

“They are politicians rather than the legally skilled people, so they cannot achieve the good result if they have no support from the technical group,” he said.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with rights groups Adhoc, Licadho and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, have all launched their own investigations into the incident.

In a statement yesterday, the OHCHR said it had already investigated four cases this year in Cambodia where live ammunition had been used against communities and human rights defenders.

“Despite the current lack of clarity about what exactly happened, we are very concerned that the killing of Mr Wutty marks the latest and most lethal in a series of gun attacks on human rights defenders in Cambodia,” the statement read.

In a wide-ranging speech delivered by Prime Minister Hun Sen at Sihanoukville Port Special Economic Zone yesterday, he did not mention the killing of Chut Wutty – a continuation of the government’s refusal to issue official public statements about the issue.