Source: Khmer Times / Tuesday, 19 April 2016 by Michael Light and Jonathan Cox
The founding director of Meta House, Nicolaus Mesterharm, responded yesterday after the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts called off tonight’s screening of I am Chut Wutty, which was set to be publicly screened for the first time in the Kingdom.
Despite having not been removed from the center’s events calendar, Mr. Mesterharm said Meta House would comply with the ministry’s request regardless of his personal feelings in the matter.
“On our end, we – as an international NGO registered here – are bound by the legal framework. If the ministry bans a film from screening, we’ll have to comply – if I like it or not. This would be the same case in any other country in the region,” Mr. Mesterharm said, adding that despite this, “governmental influence here is quite low compared to the neighbors.”
I am Chut Wutty follows the Cambodian environmental activist in the months leading up to his death while traveling through a forest area accompanied by two local journalists in 2012. At the time, The Guardian called Mr. Wutty the Kingdom’s foremost advocate for its natural resources, particularly active in the Cardamom Mountains and Prey Lang Forest. The film can be bought and downloaded online through its production company, Journeyman Pictures, for $9.99.
The ministry sent a letter to Meta House demanding the film not be shown because they did not ask for permission before scheduling a screening.
“Honestly, this hasn’t really happened before … we’re an international NGO in Cambodia. We’re following the laws, we’re aware of the cinema prakas. If the ministry has any concerns, I have no other choice than following the orders,” Mr. Mesterharm said.
Mr. Wutty’s death in 2012 is shrouded in controversy, with many NGOs and supporters of his causes criticizing the government for a hasty investigation into the shooting.
His loss was not only felt by members of Cambodian society, but around the world. US President Barack Obama honored the activist in a speech in 2014.
“This growing crackdown on civil society is a campaign to undermine the very idea of democracy, and what’s needed is an even stronger campaign to defend democracy,” the president said. “So today, we honor those who have given their lives. Among them … in Cambodia, Chut Wutty.” Additional Reporting by Jonathan Cox