Chinese Name: 皇冠高科技产业园
Location: National Road 4, Sangkat Bei, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia
The Crown compound is located on National Road 4, not far from Sihanoukville port. The property is marked on Google Maps as both Crown High-Tech Industrial Park (皇冠高科技产业园) and Crown High-Tech Incubation Center (皇冠高新技术孵化中心). The complex contains four large buildings, two rows of shorter apartment-type buildings, and three low-rise buildings.
The first English-language media reporting on the Crown compound was by Voice of Democracy (VOD) in February 2022. VOD reporters met a 24-year-old man who claimed he was abducted and sold to several online scam companies. At one of these companies he was beaten, which caused damage to his spine. On arrival at Crown, he was put into quarantine and charged US$50 per day for the room and meals. According to the man, numerous companies operated from the compound. The one he was bought by had only 30–40 staff, but the interviewee estimated there to be over 1,000 people in the wider compound. A local tuk tuk driver told VOD reporters that ‘thousands’ of people were inside the compound. The man described guards monitoring every exit to the building that he was held in night and day. He eventually got out after contacting a Chinese volunteer team, who facilitated a rescue by military police.
A documentary by Al Jazeera released in July 2022 also includes testimony from a person who claims that he was held at the Crown compound. In the film, a Chinese man identifies one of the three large office buildings as the location that he was held in, estimating that there were 2,000 to 3,000 people in the complex. He was confined to his dormitory and the office, and not even allowed to go down to the ground floor of the building he was in. He claims that he was tricked into the compound after accepting a fake job offer. On his second day, he contacted the Chinese embassy for help, who told him to call the Sihanoukville police. He did this, and the police asked for his name, passport details, and his exact location in the compound. While he waited, he messaged the Sihanoukville governor over Facebook. The police never arrived, but the property managers did, after evidently being tipped off. They told him they had to pay US$4,000 to ‘take care’ of the police, which he would have to repay. He was then sold to K99 Group’s Triumph City compound (profiled here).
As with other online compounds, recruitment posts can be found online for vaguely described jobs at the Crown compound.
After many months of denying that illegal confinement was happening in Cambodian scam compounds, a nationwide crackdown on ‘illegal’ gambling commenced in August 2022. This resulted in raids of various gambling locations, including small local gambling rooms and a handful of major compounds that were known to be running illegal online gambling and/or scam operations. Soon after, official statements on the online compounds shifted drastically, and officials began to admit that human trafficking and detention were happening, and that as many as 100,000 people may be involved in ‘illegal gambling’ (officials still appear reluctant to acknowledge that many operations are in fact conducting online fraud). In Sihanoukville, 10 compounds were raided, while others were tipped off that raids were coming, or simply told to stop operating. An exodus of workers from Sihanoukville occurred, with reports that some people moved to compounds in other parts of the country.
The Crown park was not raided, but when the authors visited the site in August with the crackdown ongoing, it appeared quiet. After the notorious Kaibo compound emptied just prior to the city-wide raids (see profile here), the authors were informed that several hundred people left Kaibo and moved to Crown but soon moved to another unknown location.
The compound is owned by ruling party senator Kok An. It carries the Crown Group (皇冠集团) brand, which sits under the Anco Group, a major conglomerate controlled by Kok An. When investigating the compound, VOD heard from the commune chief, commune police chief, and a security guard in front of the park that it was owned by Kok An. The security guard said he was paid by Anco Water Supply, a company also owned by Kok An, and his uniform bore their logo. Al Jazeera also observed security guards wearing Anco uniforms.
When VOD called Anco Water Supply, they were told the location was being rented to Chinese companies. It is normal in most large projects such as this for the local actor to work with international partners, but it is unclear in the case of the Crown High-Tech Industrial Park if Kok An has invested himself or with a joint-venture partner (or partners). Units within the compound are rented out to multiple companies, mostly Chinese, but information on the tenants is not available.
Senator Kok An is a well-connected and powerful actor in the Cambodian business community. He controls numerous companies directly or via family members, including distribution company ANCO Brothers, owns powerplants, and distributes the 555 brand of cigarettes for British American Tobacco in Cambodia. Crown also has casinos in Sihanoukville, Kandal, Banteay Meanchey and Svay Rieng. Although he is not named on company documents, Kok An has featured prominently in events held by companies linked to the Kaibo online compound (profiled here), which is linked to his late son-in-law, Rithy Samnang. Kok An has links to Dong Lecheng, the developer of the Jinshui compound (profiled here). He has also appeared at events of K99 Group, a company owned by Rithy Samnang’s brother, which owns the notorious Triumph City (profiled here).
Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals
Kok An is father-in-law of the late Rithy Samnang, founder and former chair of KB Hotel and RSX Investment and founder of KBX Investment. Kok An was centre stage at the ground-breaking ceremony of KB Central. These companies are linked to the Kaibo compound (profiled here).
Kok An has been photographed numerous times with Dong Lecheng, attended signing ceremonies, and has visited Dong Lecheng in Yunnan. Dong Lecheng is the developer of the Jinshui compound (profiled here).
Kok An has appeared at numerous K99 Group events. K99 Group’s founder, Rithy Raksmei, is the brother of the late Rithy Samnang. K99 Group owns the Triumph City compound (profiled here).
11 August: 101 East. ‘Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves.’ Al Jazeera. Link.
Longform article focusing on the victims highlighted in below documentary. Includes one person tricked into scam work at Crown.
14 July: 101 East. ‘Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves.’ Al Jazeera. Link.
Documentary on some of the main scam compounds located in Sihanoukville and Pursat. Includes testimony from one person who was tricked into scam work at Crown.
18 February: Mech, Dara, Cindy Liu, and Danielle Keeton-Olsen. ‘Victims Allege Sihanoukville Precincts with Ties to Major Businesses Are Sites of Scams, Torture, Detention.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Report on cases of forced labour and human trafficking connected to online compounds in Sihanoukville, including the Crown compound.