Guard charged in case of slain Cambodian activist

A private security guard is accused of murdering a military policeman who had just fatally shot a prominent environmentalist in Cambodia, a human rights worker said Friday.

Military policeman In Ratana shot and killed Chut Wutty on April 26 during a confrontation near a logging camp that the activist was investigating. The policeman was then shot himself.

Logging company security guard Ran Boroth faces charges of "unintentional murder" in the death of the policeman, said In Kong Chet of the rights group Licadho.

Ran Boroth, 26, appeared before the Koh Kong provincial court Friday. The charge said he tried to grab In Ratana's gun away from him when it went off, killing him.

Human rights groups have condemned and called for a thorough investigation into Chut Wutty's killing at a checkpoint after he had taken two journalists to investigate illegal logging in a protected forest area. Activists in Cambodia commonly face intimidation and violence in the course of their work, which often targets official corruption.

Suspicions about the circumstances of Chut Wutty's killing were also raised by the conflicting accounts of the incident. Military police first said the environmentalist had killed In Ratana, and then claimed the officer had killed himself.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered an investigation.

The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia on Thursday issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned" about the incident.

"We urge Cambodian authorities to undertake a thorough, transparent, and credible investigation into this matter. Furthermore, the United States encourages authorities to prosecute anyone found responsible in a similarly transparent and credible manner," it said.

The prosecutor and investigating judge in Koh Kong could not be reached for comment.

Thong Narong, a military police commander in Koh Kong, said Friday that Ran Boroth had been arrested and sent to court, but he refused further comment.

According to Licadho's In Kong Chet, who said he learned the details of the case from court documents, Ran Boroth could face up to three years in prison if convicted.