01 May 2012
LJ: The double cinematic whammy!
A great review for Who Killed Chea Vichea? from Library Journal (May 2012):
This film documents the 2004 assassination of outspoken Cambodian labor leader Chea Vichea. Filmmaker Cox records his own intense five-year investigation of the murder from the moment he arrives on the scene and films Vichea’s bleeding body in the street.
From there on, Cox has the story in his teeth and tracks it where it takes him—from Phnom Penh into Cambodian villages, across Europe, to Canada and the United States. He interviews family members and supporters of Vichea and of the two men who were railroaded for the crime. He speaks to people who provide alibis for the accused men and follows a fearful eyewitness to Thailand to take her statement.
With strong reportorial instincts, a dogged investigation, and an innate ability to collect, film, and connect the disparate pieces of the story, Cox exposes the government involvement in Vichea’s killing and abuses of power at the country’s highest levels.
VERDICT: Who Killed Chea Vichea? is the double cinematic whammy: an intense and disturbing true drama and a testament to the power of documentary film.
A place where heroes die
Video by Fran Lambrick of Rubbernaut
Wutty, director of the Natural Resources Protection Group, was shot dead by military police who were apparently guarding a facility of the Timbergreen Company, a mysterious entity involved in clearing land in Koh Kong. The murder took place in the presence of two reporters from The Cambodia Daily. Their gripping account is here.
If you've seen Who Killed Chea Vichea? you'll see a chilling similarity in the short video above, in which Wutty explains why he spent twenty years fighting deforestation — twenty years that ended on Thursday, April 26, deep in the forests of Mondul Seima district.
"The killing is having explosive ramifications, and the parallels with the killing of Chea Vichea are enormous," writes Luke Hunt in The Diplomat. "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."
"He reminds me quite a bit of labor leader Chea Vichea. Both were outspoken, both were willing to stand up for what they believe despite threats and harassment, and both paid the price for their convictions.
"I think there’s a message in this for Cambodians, and that’s to keep your head down and your mouth shut. Most people take this message to heart. There are very few that don’t and that’s what makes guys like Chut Vuthy and Chea Vichea special.
"They gain the admiration of the Cambodian people, but also the ire of the powers that be. And as much as I hate to say it, I doubt this tragedy will be the last."In AFP coverage, opposition politician Mu Sochua also related the two cases.
Not since the 2004 daylight murder of union leader Chea Vichea has Cambodia lost an activist as influential as Chhut Vuthy, she added, accusing donor countries of "making no noise" in support of ordinary Cambodians' rights.
"I want to be optimistic, I want to see hope but I'm afraid there is no more Chea Vichea, and there is no more Chhut Vuthy," she said. "They cannot be replaced. That is the aim of those who ordered the killings."Mu Sochua is right. Just as Cambodia's exploiters are stripping the country bare of the resources the people need in order to survive, they are stripping the country bare of the heroes who fight for a better future. Vichea, Wutty and so many others cannot be replaced, but their work can be carried on.
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