Supreme Court rejects former South Korea envoy's appeal

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Suth Dina, the former ambassador to South Korea, who was sentenced to five years in prison for "abuse of power" and "unlawful exploitation".
Suth Dina (centre), the former ambassador to South Korea, appears on Wednesday at the Supreme Court, which upheld his sentenced of five years in prison for "abuse of power" and "unlawful exploitation". Kim Sarom

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the disgraced former envoy to South Korea, Suth Dina, effectively upholding his five-year sentence and cutting off further recourse for appeal.

Dina was arrested in April 2016 after the Anti-Corruption Unit alleged he accumulated $3 million in three years, and was also in possession of 12.7 kilograms of gold and 500 gems. The ACU also alleged he owned 10 huge plots of land and two villas.

Dina was convicted of “abuse of power” and “unlawful exploitation” in December 2016. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $2,500, during a trial that made no mention of the gems, gold and cash.

Dina sought to have his convictions overturned by the Appeal Court, but in August last year the court said Dina had not submitted a document to allow his two Appeal Court lawyers, Ang Udom and Ouk Phalla, to represent him and subsequently rejected his appeal filing.

Dina’s Supreme Court lawyers, Kim Mengkhy and Oa Piseth, challenged the ruling as an administrative error at the Supreme Court in a hearing on March 7, during which they also made a request for Dina to receive medical treatment.

Supreme Court presiding Judge Kim Sathavy, however, said that the Appeal Court had acted correctly and that since Dina had not filed a letter authorising his two lawyers to appeal on his behalf, proceeding with the hearing would be “wrong according to legal procedure”.

“The Supreme Court also sees it like that and would like to announce we uphold the verdict of Appeal Court,” said Judge Sathavy, making no mention of Dina’s request for medical treatment.

While Dina’s Supreme Court lawyers could not be reached for comment, three independent lawyers said the decision effectively meant Dina’s five-year sentence would be upheld and he had lost his right to appeal, despite neither the Appeal Court nor the Supreme Court hearing the facts of his case.

Lawyers Sok Sam Ouen, Lor Kimgech and Yung Phanith said convicted persons only had a one-month window to appeal their sentence, meaning Dina would have had to file his appeal by January 2017.

The Appeal Court found Dina had not correctly followed procedure and therefore rejected his appeal in August – months after the window for lodging an appeal had closed.

Phanith added that Dina could request the Supreme Court to re-investigate the case on the condition he provides new evidence, but that he would more likely find success by asking for a pardon from the King after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley