Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Appeal Court Upholds Thach Setha’s Incitement Verdict, Dismisses Appeal

Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha leaves the Appeal Court after losing his bail hearing in Phnom Penh on March 30, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha leaves the Appeal Court after losing his bail hearing in Phnom Penh on March 30, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday morning upheld Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict on Thach Setha, Candlelight Party vice president, for incitement to disturb social order as well as incitement to discriminate, dismissing his appeal.

Khun Leang Meng, Appeal Court spokesperson, confirmed that trial chamber president Sin Visal sustained Setha’s three years prison sentence for violating Articles 494, 495 and 496 of the Criminal Code.

Outside the courtroom, Setha’s lawyer Choung Choungy told reporters that the decision to uphold the verdict was an “unfair judgment on his client”.

Choungy claimed that the appeal court’s decision was made “without evidence” to place additional charges, and only based it on the arguments of the lower court.

During the hearing, the lawyer said, Setha asked the judge to accord him justice and look closely at Cambodia’s history.

In reference to the facts of the case, both Choungy and Setha’s family members shared that Setha was talking about the history of the country with supporters in Korea and Japan on the January 13, 2023 event, and that it was not an incitement to disrupt social order. 

At the time, Setha related the historical events surrounding January 7 and the formation of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and expressed dissatisfaction with the “construction of a statue with three people across the country”. “I think what he talked about is historical and political, which is not a crime,” Choungy said.

Setha’s wife, Thach Sokborany, said the appeal court did not listen to her husband’s arguments. “He [Setha] said he did not incite Cambodians to quarrel, he was [talking about] the history of the country,” she stressed.

She plans to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Supreme Court in the near future.

Sokborany said she is also worried about Setha’s health because he has missed a heart check-up, which he does every three months because he has been in prison for more than a year.

In addition, Setha’s children are feeling dejected, which has impacted their education, falling from the number one position to nearly ten in class.

On October 18, 2023, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Setha to three years’ imprisonment and fined four million riel for incitement to commit a felony and incitement to discriminate under Articles 494, 495 and 496 of the Criminal Code.

At the lower court, judge Chhun Davy found Setha to have committed the crime as revealed in a video posted on YouTube, where he is alleged to have criticized the 44th anniversary celebration of “January 7” in relation to the ruling party CPP.

Cambodia celebrates January 7 as the day the Khmer Rouge was defeated with the help of allies.

During the trial, deputy prosecutor Seng Heang said allegations were made because Setha had spoken before the national election, where he issued a political message. He is said to have “wanted to attack the government and make people angry when they recollect the history of Cambodia and Vietnam”.

Am Sam Ath, operations director at Licadho, said if the accused is not satisfied with the Court of Appeal’s judgment, they can appeal to the Supreme Court.

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