Press Release

Cambodian activist honoured after his death

Alexander Soros Foundation annual Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Environmental and Human Rights Activism given posthumously to Cambodian activist, Chut Wutty

September 27, 2013

New York, NY – The Alexander Soros Foundation has today announced it is honoring Chut Wutty, a Cambodian activist who was killed by members of the country’s military police on 26th April 2012 whilst investigating illegal logging. The award is being accepted in his honor by the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) whose members still risk their lives to protect the forest they have relied upon for generations.

The award will be presented on the opening night of an exhibition featuring the works of George Grosz, a seminal German artist whose pieces portray corruption at the highest level in the Weimar Republic. The campaigning group Global Witness, who had worked extensively with Chut Wutty, will be presented with the award at the event in PLCN’s absence.

Chut Wutty was a dedicated environmental activist who spent his life helping people in Cambodia defend their rights to the land and forests they call home. His work exposed how Cambodia’s corrupt political and business elite are making personal fortunes at the expense of indigenous people and rural communities by selling off their land and forests to agribusiness and logging companies. At the time of his murder, Wutty was showing two journalists the illegal operations of a logging company in Koh Kong Province, near the Cambodian-Thai border.

“This award celebrates Chut Wutty’s courage and tireless efforts to protect Cambodia’s indigenous people and their forests, said Alexander Soros. “Wutty’s murder is a shocking  reminder that those who fight corruption risk their lives to do so. It’s vital that his murder doesn’t silence those who are still confronting extreme dangers to protect their families, homes and vital ecosystems in Cambodia, and around the world,” Soros continued.

Accepting the award on behalf of PLCN, Global Witness land campaigner, Megan MacInnes said “Chut Wutty was one of the most prominent Cambodian activists willing to speak out against illegal logging and land grabbing which is impoverishing Cambodians. Supporting the work of the Prey Lang Community Network represents the best way to make sure Wutty’s work is continued, and so we’re delighted that his legacy is being celebrated in this way.”

PLCN is a network of community groups campaigning to protect the Prey Lang forest which provides a home and livelihood for almost 200,000 people, and is the largest lowland dry evergreen forest remaining in mainland south-east Asia. Chut Wutty was a key ally of the network, having worked closely with them for many years. The Prey Lang forest is vital for Cambodia’s long-term environmental sustainability, and for the food and water security of millions of Cambodia’s citizens.

In recent years, Prey Lang Forest has come under increasing threat from agribusiness, logging and mining companies eyeing up the land for profit, and doing deals with Cambodia’s elite. Huge areas are now being cleared to make way for dozens of agro-industrial plantations and mining concessions, and new roads being built into the forest to support these activities are paving the way for an explosion in illegal logging activities.

“Without forest, there is no life, said Kha Sros, a 51-year-old grandmother of seven, from the PLCN. “Our network and our communities are fighting hard against the people who are taking our homes, threatening our livelihoods and destroying our forest. But we remain determined. We won’t give up because we know how important Prey Lang is for Cambodia and the world. In our Kuy language, Prey Lang, means “our forest.”  We know the award from the Alexander Soros Foundation will help us continue our fight to save Prey Lang, not just for us but for everyone.”

“The Prey Lang Community Network is doing absolutely vital work to protect Cambodia’s forests and I am honored to be able support and promote them,” continued Soros. “As the fierce battle for land and forests intensifies, it’s vital that we support the work of those like Wutty and the PLCN that are willing to risk their lives to defend our natural resources.”

About The Alexander Soros Foundation

Founded in 2012, The Alexander Soros Foundation is an organization dedicated to promoting civil rights, social justice and education by making grants to cutting-edge organizations in the United States and abroad. For more information, please visit alexsoros.com.