Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Supreme Court Upholds Thach Setha’s Guilty Verdict on Fake Checks, Sets Aside Appeal

Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing in Phnom Penh on May 20, 2024. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
Candlelight Party vice president Thach Setha arrives at the Supreme Court for hearing in Phnom Penh on May 20, 2024. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

The Supreme Court upheld Phnom Penh Court of Appeal’s guilty verdict on Thach Setha, former Candlelight Party vice president, today for issuing fake checks in 2019, setting aside his appeal.

“He is ordered to be sent to prison,” presiding judge Nil Non read out the judgment. No reasons were offered for the rejection of Setha’s appeal against the lower court’s decision.

Setha was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in September last year for issuing five false checks, based on a complaint filed by Hay Vanrin, who received those checks. Vanrin, who owns Rin Chhay pawnshop, is said to have business ties with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Setha was also fined three million riel (approximately $735) and ordered to pay the plaintiff $33,400 in outstanding debt and an additional five million riel ($1,225) as compensation.

Setha had initially taken out an $18,000 loan from the pawnshop, which was collateralized with land title for a property belonging to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, an association he runs as president.

Setha’s lawyer Son Chum Choun expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court’s decision failed to bring justice to his client. 

“This is an injustice to my client as we requested the original copies of the checks to be tendered as evidence during the trial, but the court didn’t consider it,” said Chum Choun, stressing that copies cannot be used as evidence to prosecute his client.

Similarly, another of Setha’s lawyer Choung Choungy said the copies cannot be considered evidence. “[B]ecause only original checks can be deposited to get money [from the bank]. Copies of checks are not checks,” he said.

Hay Vanrin could not be reached for comment as his phone number is no longer listed in the Ministry of Commerce’s record. His lawyer, Tim Sopheap, declined to comment, stating that she was busy in the meeting.

NGO rights group Licadho operations director Am Sam Ath said the international community, including the United Nations considered Setha’s arrest and conviction as “politically motivated”, not a criminal case.

“As we have observed, his detention will affect the democratic process in Cambodia, relating to the restriction on freedom of political space. So, when the Supreme Court issued a final decision on the lower court verdict, there will be criticism,” he said.