GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office called on Cambodia on Tuesday to carry out a full investigation into the killing of an anti-logging activist and to ensure the safety of witnesses to the crime in which a policeman was also shot dead.
Chut Wutty, director of the Phnom Penh-based environmental watchdog Natural Resource Protection Group who helped expose a secretive state sell-off of national parks, died last Wednesday after military police opened fire in the remote southwestern province of Koh Kong, police said.
U.N. rights investigators arrived at the scene hours later, interviewed locals and monitored the post-mortem examination of the bodies, spokesman Rupert Colville said.
He welcomed the authorities' opening of an investigation, including a military inquiry, saying it should seek to interview military personnel and those involved in logging in the area, located near a Chinese-built hydroelectric dam.
"We urge the royal government to ensure that a full civilian judicial investigation proceeds speedily and with the utmost probity and independence," Colville told a news briefing.
"We also urge the government to take concrete and immediate measures to ensure the safety of all witnesses and investigators as well as the families of the deceased men."
Police have said Chut Wutty was armed and that the military police officer was patrolling the area against "forest crimes" when he was shot dead.
Two journalists from the Cambodian Daily who had been travelling with Chut Wutty did not see who fired the shots, as they had been diving for cover themselves, Colville said.
"It appears he was sitting in his car when he was shot, a bullet entered his knee initially and then the lower part of his stomach. It seems he took quite some time to die and he didn't get any medical treatment," he said. "It's very murky."
"Despite the 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," he said.
This year alone, the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has investigated four other cases involving the use of live ammunition against communities and rights defenders in Cambodia that have resulted in injuries, he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay)