CAMBODIAN COMMUNITY | Activist's son pays a visit

Cambodian environmental activist ChutWutty was remembered and honoured by the Cambodian community at a meeting at Bonnyrigg earlier this month.

The community also welcomed his son, Oudom Reaksmey Chuey, who's in Australia to talk about his father's work.

Wutty, who was murdered seven years ago, is revered for his dedication to protecting the forests in Cambodia.

He founded the Natural Resource Protection Group to track illegal logging despite opposition from powerful interests who had grown rich on the proceeds of logging.

Although he knew the risks, he continued to patrol the forest and work with indigenous villagers. When asked why he said: "If I don't do this no one will."

On the morning of April 26, 2012, Wutty escorted two journalists from the Cambodia Daily to a protected forest in the Cardamon Mountain in Koh Kong province.

Military police and a soldier with AK-47s turned up and demanded they hand over their cameras. Wutty was shot dead after getting back into his car.

Chuey recalled that he was working in the NRPG office the day his father died. A call came through at 10am to say his father had been killed.

At first he didn't believe it, as hoax callers in the past had claimed his father was dead. It was only when his father's cousin rang he knew it must be true. Later that day, a UN agency took him to a safe place.

Global Witness and other human-rights organisations called for an independent investigation into his father's murder. Oudom believes those who ordered the killing have yet to be held to account and the family continues to call for justice.

Public screenings of the 2015 film I am Chut Wutty were immediately banned in Cambodia. The film was screened at the start of the Bonnyrigg meeting.

Afterwards, there was a lively question-and-answer session with Chuey.

"[Chut Wutty and Kem Ley] gave their lives in a fight for justice in Cambodia. We will never forget them."

SREY KANG, Vice-President, Khmer Community

The temple's memorial for Wutty follows the memorial last month for another well-known activist, Kem Ley. "They gave their lives in a fight for justice in Cambodia," Srey Kang said. "We will never forget them."

Wutty's death in 2012 is another of many attacks worldwide on environmental activists. Global Witness estimates that every week, three to four environmental defenders are killed around the world. In Cambodia, the rate of deforestation continues at an alarming rate.

This story Activist's son pays a visit first appeared on Fairfield City Champion.