Illegal rosewood logging in the Cardamom Mountains and killing of forest activist Chut Wutty, Cambodia


Cambodian environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot on April 26, 2012 in the Central Cardamom Protected Forest (CCPF), investigating illegal logging in the conservation area. The CCPF, covering 402,000ha, is among the largest conservation areas in Cambodia, extending itself over various districts. With its great biodiversity, including many endemic and endangered species such as Asian elephants and Siamese Crocodiles, it can be counted among the richest forests in Southeast Asia. Available resin trees are further important income sources of the local population. The Cardamom Forests are also well known for its old growth timber, including precious rosewood with a market value of $5000-$8000 per cubic meter. This has made the area a central target for illegal logging, provoking a rosewood rush, driven largely by highly organized criminal networks, operating on a large scale (1).

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Basic Data
NameIllegal rosewood logging in the Cardamom Mountains and killing of forest activist Chut Wutty, Cambodia
ProvinceKoh Kong
SiteRussey Chrum village, Thma Bang District
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Logging and non timber extraction
Specific Commoditiesrosewood
yellow vine
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThis conflict is not related to a single project, but rather to diverse illegal activities. Below, some quantitative information, where available, is provided for related issues.

Illegal logging in Thma Bang district is a complex issue involving many different actors. Large-scale loggers are associated to highly organized criminal networks that transport rosewood out the area via trucks. Villagers estimate that around 2000 loggers are active in the area and that during peak logging season, around 80 to 90 trucks leave the area every night (1).

A cubic meter costs around $5000-8000 and the whole illegal business is estimated to be a several hundred thousand dollar business (1).

Migrant workers and probably local villagers also engage in small-scale activities, such as collecting rosewood stumps and logging leftovers, which are further traded on a minor scale. Local traders pay around 1,500 riels/kg of leftovers (1), corresponding to around 0,4$, which is more or less 20% of the daily salary of an agricultural worker, working on farms of others.

In an interview, Chut Wutty estimated that around 400,000 resin trees, which provide crucial local incomes, have been logged in the area (see video).

Timbergreen has a concession to clear a forest area within the Cardamom Forests for the construction of the Stung Tatai Hydropower Dam, carried out and funded by the firm China National Heavy Machinery. The hydropower dam has a supposed capacity of 246 megawatt (1). The concessions area for clearing the forest, corresponding to the dam reservoir area, amounts to around 2000ha (4)

The whole Central Cardamom Protected Forest conservation area expands over 402,000ha. Thma Bang district is believed to be only one of four sides in which illegal logging activities are organized (1).
Project Area (in hectares)402,000 (protected area)
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/01/2001
Company Names or State EnterprisesTimbergreen from Cambodia - illegal logging, logging, timber, rosewood, yellow vine
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNRPG Natural Resource Protection Group

ARA Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz

CCHR Cambodian Center for Human Rights

LICADHO Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights

ADHOC Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Soil erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Forest activist Chut Wutty was killed on April 26, 2012
Development of AlternativesThis has been a fight against illegal activities. A major alternative development against illegal logging was the establishment of the protected area CCPF (Central Cardamom Protected Forest) in 2001, in which Chut Wutty was involved. This was however before the conflict escalated.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.There has been heavy illegal logging, and attempts to investigate this led to the killing of activist Chut Wutty. His killing has never been properly investigated.
Sources and Materials

Chut Wutty on Wikipedia
[click to view]

Article from the journalist who accompanied Chut Wutty the day he was killed
[click to view]

(1) Phnom Penh Post article: logging-wild-west
[click to view]

(2) Phnom Penh Post article: Chut Wutty slaying puts timbergreen logging in spotlight
[click to view]

(3) Phnom Penh Post Article: Court drops Wutty case
[click to view]

(4) Phnom Penh Post Article: Timbergreen official questioned in Chut Wutty shooting
[click to view]

Media Links

Australia news report on the death of Chut Wutty
[click to view]

Short video on the life and death of Chut Wutty
[click to view]

Other Documents

Chut Wutty burning illegally logged timber Foto credits: Phnom Penh Post:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update24/02/2015