More photos of when I was in Thmor Bang District
with HE Son Chhay, Mardi Seng, Emily and Phirum Keo
one week before Chut Wutty was gunned down in the same area
(Photos: Emily Keo, April 2012)
. . .
Who is responsible for the death of Cambodia's foremost forest activist?
A documentary in the making
. . .
Logging, Corruption in Cambodia
The Diplomat, 2 May 2012
Illegal logging has been a hot topic in Cambodia in recent months. It’s a practice that has expanded as it has become more profitable – there’s significant international demand for the fine-grained lumber from rosewood trees, which is used in a wide variety of ways, from the production of furniture in China to musical instruments to be sold in the United States.
However, activists say the logging of these rare trees causes significant environmental degradation, and it has undoubtedly contributed to Cambodia’s rapid deforestation rate, the third highest in the world according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Officially, the trees are protected by law. Unofficially, the underground business of logging is thriving in Cambodia. Indeed, the trade can be so lucrative that Cambodian loggers have been traversing the border into Thailand to cut down their rosewood trees, a growing concern to both Phnom Penh and Bangkok; Thai border guards routinely shoot and kill Cambodian loggers.
. . .
Chea Vichea and Cambodia's Shame
1 May 2012, Luke Hunt (in KI-Media) Excerpts:
The Chut Vuthy killing is having explosive ramifications, and the parallels with the killing of Chea Vichea are enormous. Chut Vuthy had been prominent in uncovering the secret sell-off of state forests, illegal rosewood harvesting and land grabs in the area where a Chinese dam is being built.
His family, human rights groups and long time observers are troubled by the official explanation: That the military police officer who killed Chut Vuthy, after realizing what he had done, turned an AK-47 on himself and pulled the trigger twice.
Also present when Chut Vuthy was confronted by the group of military troops demanding his camera were two journalists. Neither saw who shot who, and they were eventually lucky to get out unscathed after the intervention of outside police. But the simple fact that such killings still take place speaks volumes about Cambodia. Sadly, the likes of Brad Cox have no shortage of subjects to work with.
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UN human rights office concerned over murder of Cambodian environment activist
UN News Centre, 1 May 2012
U.N. seeks full inquiry into Cambodian activist's death
AFP, 1 May 2012
AFP, 1 May 2012, Michelle Fitzpatrick
Funeral Ceremony at Ancestral Home of Chut Wutty
Svay Meas Village, Vihear Suor District, Kandal Province
Saturday, 28 April 2012
. . .
Rights groups decry killing
of Cambodian activist
"What happened ... is meant to be a chilling message to us, the concerned citizens, the rights advocates: You mess with us, you pay with your life," said a statement by the rights group CIVICUS, the Center for Cambodian Civic Education. "However, let us send a message back: We will not be bowed!"
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April 27, 2012 Associated Press
The death of Chut Wutty, the director of the National Resources Protection Group, had outraged human rights and environmental groups. A Cambodian rights group, the Center for Cambodian Civic Education, described it as "cold-blooded murder."
. . .
An analysis by Parameswaran Ponnudurai
Radio Free Asia, 27 April 2012
A 'cold blooded' murder of a Cambodian activist throws the spotlight on the plight of civil society in the region.
Theary Seng, founding president of rights group CIVICUS, the Center for Cambodian Civic Education, called Chut Wutty's death a "cold blooded murder."
"What happened [yesterday] is meant to be a chilling message to us, the concerned citizens, the rights advocates: 'You mess with us, you pay with your life,'" she said.
"However, let us send a message back: 'We will not be bowed!'"
. . .
. . .
Just spoke with Chut Wutty's younger brother; his body is being returned to family ancestral village in Kandal Province late tonight. I plan to visit his family tomorrow morning, departing from CIVICUS Cambodia at 8:30 a.m., and for those of you who wish to show support through presence and/or financial contribution, please contact me.
- Theary, 6:20 p.m. (Thursday, 26 April 2012)
UPDATED INFO: His wife is retrieving his body early tomorrow morning, so we will visit Kandal departing now at 3:30 p.m. from CIVICUS Cambodia.
- Theary, 11:30 p.m. (Thursday, 26 April 2012)
Just talked with Chut Wutty's younger brother again at 7 -ish this morning and through tears he confirmed that the body is being retrieved today and is expected to arrive at Phum Svay Meas, Khum Vihear Suor, Srok Kandal in Kandal Province at around 3 or 4 p.m. If you wish to join our caravan to pay respect to his family, we depart at 3:30 from CIVICUS Cambodia office.
- Theary, 8:30 a.m. (Friday, 27 April 2012)
We once again postponed our visit to pay respects to the family as the body is still yet in Koh Kong as of this late Friday afternoon. His younger brother tried to claim the body on the day of his murdered but was refused permission. His wife and two nephews accompanied her this early Friday morning to retrieve the body. No ambulance was provided. It is now expected that his body will be returned to his ancestral village in Kandal Province late tonight between 10-12 midnight.
CIVICUS Cambodia will visit his family on Saturday departing at 2 p.m. A very large group of human rights activists and concerned citizens are visiting his family on Sunday. The body will be carried to the nearby pagoda for the cremation ceremony on Monday morning.
- Theary 5 p.m. (Friday, 27 April 2012)
. . .
PROMINENT ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST
AT THMOR BANG TODAY!
Amnesty International, 26 April 2012
AFP, 26 April 2012
Committee to Protect Journalists, 26 April 2012
Al Jazeera, 26 April 2012
BBC, 26 April 2012
UK Guardian, 26 April 2012
. . .
Chut Wutty, president of Natural Resources Conservation Group in Cambodia (ប្រធានអង្គការការពារធនធានធម្មជាតិ), was murdered at Thmor Bang district of Koh Kong Province (ថ្មបាំង ខេត្តកោះកុង) this Thursday noon while on mission investigating the illegal logging in the Cardamon Mountains, where I was only one week ago.
My heart and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Chut Wutty.
We condemn in the harshest terms the murder of Mr. Chut Wutty and are deeply concerned about the whereabouts of two Cambodia Daily journalists who were with him at the time of the murder at Thmor Bang.
- Theary C. Seng, 4 p.m. Thursday, 26 April 2012
Cambodia environmentalist killed in police dispute
April 26, 2012
Cambodian Activist Killed in Police Shoot-out
26 April 2012
Cambodian Activist Shot Dead
Forest activist Chut Wutty slained and
2 reporters from the Cambodia Daily kidnapped
26 April 2012
Environmental activist Chut Wutty shot dead
Reuters, 26 April 2012
Logging in the wild west
In a period of several hours beginning late on Sunday night, the Post witnessed at least nine industrial transport trucks, seven pick-up trucks and one Land Rover packed with timber drive out of Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district in the CCPF on one road alone. Large numbers of trucks could also be heard using a nearby connecting road...
Villagers, loggers and conservationists have verified that Forestry Administration officials, military officers and rangers working in partnership with the NGO Conservation International are making no effort to stop the massive trade in protected rosewood...
Thuy Pet, 50, a former soldier from military division 5 now living in Thma Bang district’s Russey Chrum village, estimated that during peak logging periods, anywhere from 80 to 90 trucks carried timber out of the protected area every night. “I think nobody can stop this until they finish. When they finish, they will go to another area,” he said. Another villager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that about 2,000 people were now logging in the area.
Environmental Activist Murdered—
“Let his life be our rallying cry!”
Phnom Penh, 26 April 2012: We, at CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education, condemn the cold-blooded murder of Mr. Chut Wutty, the president of Natural Resources Conservation Group, today at noon at Thmor Bang district of Koh Kong Province. He was on mission investigating the illegal logging in the protected areas of the Cardamon Mountains. His body is being transported to his family ancestral village in Kandal Province tonight.
CIVICUS Cambodia founding president Ms. Theary C. Seng states:
“I was just there at Thmor Bang last week at the invitation of the Honorable Son Chhay, SRP Member of Parliament, who asked me as a rights advocate to accompany him and his colleagues to investigate the illegal logging and environmental impact of the Chinese dam that is to begin construction next year. We had planned on a five-day stay in the protected areas of the Cardamon Mountains but due to rising security concerns, we left after three days.
“What happened today is meant to be a chilling message to us, the concerned citizens, the rights advocates: You mess with us, you pay with your life. However, let us send a message back: We will not be bowed!
“It is at moments like this that our voices—united, intelligent, strong, firm—are needed more than ever! We will not be bowed by greedy and violent cowards.
“In the honorable memory of Chut Wutty, we will not be silent; we will continue his legacy; we will honor him by continuing his advocacy for the protection of our forests, mountains, hills, lakes and seas; we will stand for all that is decent and good. We will not be silent. Let his life be our rallying cry!”
We express deep concern also for the welfare and whereabouts of two Cambodia Daily journalists who were reported to be with him when he was murdered. We demand timely, trustworthy investigation into the cold-blooded murder of Mr. Chut Wutty. We demand justice for his family, friends and the people of Cambodia.
To the family of Mr. Chut Wutty: Our prayers are with you in this most difficult time.
CIVICUS Cambodia will travel to Kandal Province tomorrow morning to pay respect and invites others to join us, departing at 8:30 a.m. from our office.
. . .
CARVING UP CAMBODIA
One Concession at a Time
. . .
Pulitzer Center, 4 April 2012
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With its natural sound in KI-Media
. . .
A Monstrous Disaster in the Making
in the Stunning
Koh Kong Province, Cambodia
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HAPPY EARTH DAY!
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BACKGROUND and CONTEXT
Other Chinese Dams in Cambodia wreaking havoc
The Phnom Penh Post, 17 June 2011
The Three Gorges Dam has submerged 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages, and displaced more than 1.2 million people. Many resettlers were cheated out of their compensation payments and did not receive the new jobs or land that the government had promised. While some of the newly built towns have recovered from the initial shock of displacement, others are beset by widespread unemployment and impoverishment...
The Three Gorges Dam has served as a model for projects in Cambodia and many other countries. Three Gorges contractors such as Sinohydro and Gezhouba and other Chinese companies are currently building the Da Dai, Kamchay, Kirirom III, Lower Stung Russey, Stung Atay and Stung Tatay dams on Cambodian rivers. Chinese companies have also signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Sambor Dam on the Mekong, and have proposed several projects on the Stung Cheay Areng and Srepok rivers.
What lesson does the Three Gorges Project hold as Cambodia considers its future hydropower strategy? First and foremost, the Yangtze dam shows that large dams on major rivers are massive interventions into highly complex ecosystems. Their impacts can occur thousands of kilometres away and many years after construction has been completed. It is impossible to predict and mitigate all social and environmental impacts of such projects.
The Dam(age) in Ratanakiri
Al Jazeera, 22 April 2012
. . .
A Brief Report of the Visit to
Thmor Bang District
in Koh Kong Province
April 16 to 18, 2012
. . .
MP urges government to scrap Koh Kong dam project
The Phnom Penh Post, 20 April 2012
. . .
Go to Google Earth for more photos of the path we took in the Cardamon Mountains in Koh Kong Province these several days.
SAVE THE ARENG VALLEY!
Let us from today onward
with GREAT PERSISTENCE,
CONCENTRATION and SOLIDARITY,
here and overseas,
CAMPAIGN to stop the building of the dam in Areng River
which is slated to begin construction next year.
Cheay Areng Hydropower dam is located in Prolay and Chumnoab communes, Thmor Bang district, Koh Kong province.
Different conflicting dam specifications (Height 41 m, Depth 39 m). These figures would produce a reservoir of 20,000 ha. basically the whole Areng Valley (all the images shown below!)
Another dam estimates of height 36.6 m, depth 15- 25 m will produce a reservoir of 9,474 ha.
2,624 ha of land belonging to 1,642 people (389 families) will impacted by the dam project. Of these, 899 people (189 families) from two villages in Chumnoab commune and four villages in Prolay commune will be resettled from the reservoir site to Veal Thom (large field) of the Elephants Corridor (of herds crossing). Many of these villagers are of Khmer Chorng ethnicity, who moved into the area over 600 years ago.
12,325.37 ha of land will be inundated, including paddy fields, agricultural land, forest, and household settlement. The clearing of forest in the Areng Valley will impact the biodiversity of this pristine area.
Biological Impacts: The upper Areng Valley is one of most important biologically diverse areas in Cambodia, with 277 species recorded in the valley, of which 31 mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians are globally threatened species, and 8 are classified as nationally protected species. Many of these species are found only in the upper reaches of the Areng River. For example, the fish fauna in this area is especially unique as it is one of only a few rivers in Cambodia not connected to the Mekong River Basin. It also contains approximately 30 percent of the global hatchling recruitment of the Siamese Crocodile, which is critically endangered. Also endangered are Asian elephants, white-winged ducks, tortoises and freshwater turtles, Asian Arowana. Serious impacts to fisheries. The habitat of these species will be lost with the construction of this dam.
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The CPP-government of Cambodia (aka, Kingdom of Extraordinary Wonder or "Kew", pronounced "coo", and often in much excitement, exclaimed in rapid succession, Kew-Kew! Kew-Kew!) has granted the Chinese the rights to build 3 dams in the protected Cardamon Mountains in Koh Kong Province.
My first trip to Koh Kong was in 1997 when I was consulting with Legal Aid of Cambodia. A retired Cambodian-American social worker from Oregon and I traveled to all the 20+ provinces in Cambodia to visit each provincial prison to assess the state of juveniles living there as convicts or as children of those convicted.
The condition and the welfare of juveniles in the Koh Kong prison in 1997 struck the most fear and concern for us, partly it was situated in the wild west frontier with limited access to it from other provinces. We had to travel by boat from Kampong Som, and returned on land through remote dilapidated roads with periodic military checkpoints in the dense deep jungle.
And it was really jungle then! Beginning in 1996, the Malaysian company had started with a fury to cut down "tiel" wood and only "tiel" (the large white elegant trees standing very straight and upright still found in the Angkor Wat / Angkor Thom compounds), but it was only then denting the thick, thick forested jungle cover. When we traveled by car through Koh Kong in 1997, we hardly could see the sky due to the forested canopy.
Sixteen years later, no more! Little luxury wood of any kind left, especially with the continuing logging of rosewood by the local people assisted by the military, transported to Vietnam by barge and on land. Still beautiful vistas, but nothing compared to what I encountered in 1997. Most of the luxury wood have been sawed down and logged out of Cambodia to the neighboring countries.
(Monday, 16 April 2012)
We were told by a local man that we could take the Tacoma truck from Thmor Bang to Areng, a distance of 25 km on rugged mountainous roads. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The road was impassable and did at least several thousands of dollars worth of damage to the truck!
This nearby creek close to where we were stuck for hours is normally place of elephants and pythons crossing. Yellow road signs of an elephant crossing are everywhere along the Koh Kong roads. Every other conversation turned on the fears of encountering elephants on our rugged mountain path, as these elephants are known to kill and trample everything in their path. It had stamped to death recently a local man, most likely deaf, as he didn't heed the elephant's warning. We are told to run in a zig-zagged pattern if we are chased by an elephant or elephants as their lumbering weight and size will slow them down in trying to zig-zag after us, and to throw pieces of items ( e.g. clothing) as we run as that would also slow them down for they will stop to stomp on every item. Fortunately, we only saw their footprints of their passing of the night before; unfortunately, I really wanted to see them (from afar!) which amused everyone who thought I was so naive in my love of elephants. Well, the only elephant I know in real life is the now-retired, lovable Sambo of Wat Phnom!
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
We decided not to stay at the only guesthouse in the whole village as it's owned by the village chief. After the encounter with Beau, the man who owns the Russian "water elephant" army truck and an alleged chief logger of the region, and who became more and more suspicious of our presence and intentions, we didn't want to take any chances. So, we stayed at a villager's home, a supporter of the Sam Rainsy Party.
The next morning, we retraced the path we took yesterday in the truck but this time as a caravan of 5 motorbikes of 10 people, plus supplies to last us for at least 2 days. We finally set out at approx. 9 a.m.
Safe arrival at our destination: Prolay Pagoda
Visits with the people in the villages beyond the pagoda -- Samrong and Ta Ngel
Crocodile Watching Night Adventure
A group of 10-12 of us (of local boys, two "barangs", and my brother, a friend's daughter and me) decided to go crocodile watching; we were told the best chance of seeing them is at night. So armed only with flashlights and cheap plastic shoes at $2.50/pair and long socks, we forged ahead -- half hour on the motorbikes/mountain bikes, and another 45-60 minute on foot into the deep jungle swamp in the pitch black night, we arrived at the first watching point... No crocodiles.
We fought our way through the darkness and vines and thorns--the habitat of vipers, pythons, ground leeches, poisonous spiders etc.--still no crocodiles, even though there were excitement of someone who believed to have seen a pair of glowing red eyes. After a few more locations and another hour or so, we returned home.
All of us unharmed, except for a brief concern about the leaking gas tank of a motorbike, and my brief fall off the log path into the river we were crossing (no ground or water leeches attached to me all night -- Thank God!!).
On the main road, we encountered a rare Asian viper, coiled up in the middle of our path back to the pagoda where we were staying for night.
The next day, I found out the real situation of the swamp area we were in last night -- that it is the main habitat of vipers, pythons and other venomous creatures. If I had known this beforehand or if we had made the trip during the day time, I would not have gone on this adventure. But it was one of the best adventures I've done since hang gliding in South Africa in 1999! The LORD's protection was/is so tangible! A friend gave me Psalm 91 which fittingly described my fears and comfort!
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Visit with people living in Chrork Russei village
Returning to Thmor Bang village via Areng village
Back on the National Road 48 to return to Phnom Penh
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Among the many wisdom traditions that Dr. Mark Strom draws from, one comes from the Judeo-Christian book of Proverbs: