The Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal has upheld the decision to detain Thach Setha, vice-president of the Candlelight Party (CP) who was arrested on January 16 for issuing several cheques that bounced.

CP spokesman Kim Sour Phirith said after the February 21 hearing that he was disappointed with the ruling and that Setha’s lawyer will file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I consider this case a political one rather than a criminal offence … and I think national and international opinions have reflected as such,” he said.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said it was common for opposition parties to accuse the government of manipulating the judiciary whenever they lost a case. Regardless of their wrongly held opinions, the most important thing is that they not break the law.

“They claim that the courts are somehow under the authority of the government, when in fact the courts are independent. It doesn’t matter how clear the courts make this, they continue to make these accusations and smear the reputation of both the courts and the government. Their behaviour is tiresome,” he said.

“The public no longer listens to the accusations they make, as that has become a part of their culture. This kind of culture has always lost at the polls,” he added.

Setha was arrested on January 16 on charges of “non-compliance with trading instruments” for writing out five cashless checks. His lawyer denied that he had acted as charged, alleging that the arrest was related to the upcoming national election.

The investigating judge ordered Setha’s detention on the same day of his arrest on January 16 after hearing testimony and examining the evidence.