Tracking Online Scam Operations in Southeast Asia.
Bavet Moc Bai Casino
Bavet City, Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia
Bavet Moc Bai Casino is one of Cambodia’s most well-established casinos, operating for over two decades in the Cambodian casino town of Bavet, a stone’s throw from the border with Vietnam. It sits in a complex of casinos and buildings commonly referred to as ‘Moc Bai’, which contains numerous online gambling operations and until recently housed thousands of online workers. The area and the casino itself have been linked to a host of sensational news reports, and the casino works with several major online gambling operators. It is owned by a Chinese-born casino mogul who built his gambling empire in Myanmar in the 1990s before expanding to Laos and Cambodia. He has been linked to several court cases in China related to illegal cross-border and online gambling operations.
Yongyuan Casino is located in the Chrey Thom Commune of Kandal Province, on the border with Vietnam. Chrey Thom has a number of casinos and for several years, media reports have discussed online scam and gambling operations in the area, documenting deaths at Yongyuan Casino, as well as trafficking and detention of Vietnamese nationals to work in scams there. It is owned by a Chinese-born casino mogul who built his casino empire in Myanmar in the 1980s before expanding to Laos and Cambodia. He has been linked to several court cases in China related to illegal cross-border and online gambling operations.
The Crown High-Tech Industrial Park is located close to Sihanoukville’s autonomous port. An enclosed compound made up of several large buildings, the park is owned by a powerful ruling party senator and businessman. Media reports have documented Chinese nationals held at the compound and forced to work for online scam companies.
The Long Bay development is located within Union Development Group’s larger Dara Sakor real estate and tourism project in the coastal province of Koh Kong. Initiated in 2018, it was envisioned as a luxury resort and property development, but parts of the project have since become a location for online scams. Media reports in 2022 documented the conditions in which workers are held there, working online scams and unable to leave without paying a fine. Prior to this, the Long Bay project was tarnished by its association with an investor who was revealed to be a fugitive from China.
White Sand Group has been active in Cambodia since at least 2017 and owns the White Sand Palace Hotel in the Ochheuteal Beach area of Sihanoukville. It also runs a gated complex in the north of the city known as White Sand 2. Both locations are reported to have housed online scam operations, and testimonies of survivors indicate high levels of violence and illegal detention. White Sand and associated companies are linked to a Myanmar national and several Chinese nationals.
Jingang Hotel hit the headlines in April 2022, when a group of Vietnamese reportedly staged an escape from the compound. After this, a police raid quickly followed and over 200 Vietnamese nationals were removed from the premises and deported within a few days. Officials and police denied that this was anything more than normal immigration enforcement, but available evidence indicates the compound was being used as an online fraud and gambling hub, with reports indicating some people were duped into working there and then held against their will.
Pacific Real Estate / Golden Phoenix Entertainment City
Kandal Province, Cambodia
One of the most shocking incidents concerning Cambodia’s online crime compounds occurred in August 2022, when video footage was posted online showing a large group of Vietnamese nationals fleeing a compound close to the border with Vietnam, pursued by heavyset security guards wielding metal bars. Over 40 escapees leapt into the river and swam to Vietnam, one drowning in the process. After an initial clumsy cover-up, it became clear that the compound held many more people forced to work in online gambling and scam operations. The compound is located in an area hosting several online crime operations and border casinos, many staffed by undocumented Vietnamese workers.
Linked to a powerful Cambodian tycoon and a Chinese-invested business group, the MDS Henghe Thmorda Special Economic Zone is located in a remote part of Pursat Province, very close to the border with Thailand. Since at least 2020, it has been linked to multiple reports of human trafficking and forced labour, connected to online scam operations. Cambodian, Chinese, and international media have reported numerous cases of violence at the site, with well over 100 people having been rescued in the last two years.
Chinese, Cambodian, and international news reports have documented criminal activities taking place at a location called ‘Nanhai’ (南海). This is a complex comprising an international hotel and an apartment building in the Independence and Sokha Beach area of downtown Sihanoukville. Nanhai and its sister project Xihu are owned by a pair of Myanmar-born naturalised Cambodian citizens with connections with other businesspeople implicated in online gambling and scam operations elsewhere in the city.
K99 Group was founded in 2017 by a well-connected Cambodian businessman. The company has buildings in the ‘Chinatown’ area of Otres, purchased from the Chinese businessman behind the bulk of developments in the vicinity. It also owns a compound called Triumph City, which is built on an 18-hectare plot northeast of Chinatown, where survivors have reported being sold to scam operators. This development was previously called Arc De Triomphe. As a junket operator, K99 Group has relationships with numerous casinos, several of which are housed in buildings linked to scam operations and rights abuses.