MDS Henghe Thmorda Special Economic Zone

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.
  • Published 6 Nov, 2022

Chinese Name: 恒合斯莫尔达经济特区
Location: Thmorda Commune, Veal Veng District, Pursat Province, Cambodia.

  • Su Liangsheng (苏良生)
  • Su Jinde (苏金德)
  • Su Zhongjian
  • Wang Dingben (王丁本)
  • Try Pheap (ទ្រី ភាព)
  • Henghe Group (恒合集团)
  • MDS Thmorda SEZ Co., Ltd.
  • MDS Heng He Investment Co., Ltd

What Do We Know about MDS Henghe Thmorda SEZ?

MDS Henghe Thmorda Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is located in Pursat Province, right on the border with Thailand. The SEZ has gone through several shifts since its approval in 2010. Years before it became an online crime hotspot, it was implicated in serious land conflicts (returned to below). Original plans for the zone included development of a casino and golf course. Satellite imagery shows development of the site was minimal up to 2017, but there was a rapid increase in activity during 2018–20.

Timelapse of development at the site, September 2017 to June 2022.

Originally granted to the Cambodian MDS company, Chinese business group Henghe joined in 2018—around the time construction at the site rapidly accelerated. Since then, the zone has been implicated in reports of online scams and gambling, but its remote location allowed operations there to develop without much scrutiny until 2021, when it began to receive attention outside of Chinese language social media. Company promotional materials present a modern development, including green spaces, high rises, and a golf course, but in reality it is largely a series of blocks that have reportedly become a hub for online crime networks.

Rendering of company vision for the SEZ. Source: Zhouya.

Before it landed on the radar of most people, stories in Cambodia-based Chinese-language media were already hinting at a large online operation in Pursat Province (菩萨省 in Chinese). In July 2020, Angkor Today (今日吴哥) reported that seven workers escaped an online scam compound on the Thai border and walked through mountains until they could find a road. They reported having to work 14-hour days and that the operators had demanded a RMB 30–40,000 (US$4,400–5,900) fee to let them leave. The men were brought to Cambodia by people smugglers via Vietnam. The name of the compound was not mentioned, but the description made clear it was MDS Henghe.

Later in 2020, reports emerged that a group of Chinese had erected roadblocks on the public road from Thmorda to Koh Kong, questioning travellers and asking to check inside their cars. Again, the MDS Henghe compound was not mentioned, but the details indicate this was the initiative of compound operators to prevent workers from leaving. The story was followed up by Angkor Today, which confirmed the roadblocks were in the vicinity of the MDS Henghe compound, described in the report as ‘a legendary online gambling company’. Reporters found that Cambodians were now able to move freely along the road, but Chinese were stopped at these unofficial roadblocks. The owner of a local shop told the reporter that there were 1,000 people at the compound, but prior to the online gambling ban (enacted from the end of 2019) there were thousands more.

In April 2021, a Shanghai district procuratorate charged seven men involved in a fraudulent bitcoin scam run from an industrial park in Pursat Province that had been targeting people in China since 2019. In November, Cambodian media Koh Santepheap reported that a Chinese man was rescued from the compound after messaging Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page. He claimed he was tricked into travelling from China, and after he fell sick the operators threatened to sell him to another group. Cambodian national and provincial police cooperated to rescue him.

VOD picked the story up in November 2021, interviewing what appears to be the same person mentioned in the Koh Santepheap report. Originally from Inner Mongolia, the 23-year-old claimed he was tricked into travelling to the compound, where he was made to engage in online romance scams 15–16 hours a day. His family reported his case in China and the man contacted journalists and rescue groups in Cambodia. The Chinese Embassy helped to contact local police, but with no result. After the man messaged the Prime Minister’s Facebook page, a police rapid reaction team was sent to investigate, and the man was removed from the compound. When asked what was going on in the compound, local authorities could tell very little to the VOD journalists. The Commune Chief said there were at least 2,000 people inside, mostly Chinese: ‘I do not know what they are doing, and I also have doubts about it too … I do not know what kind of business they do to earn, because I do not see them going outside and they only stay inside the buildings. I have nothing to say.’ A local police officer also claimed to be in the dark and said: ‘Each building is firmly closed, and the ones who work inside cannot go outside. They build fences to seal every building for preventing staff from going outside.’

Soon after these reports, a Cambodian woman posted a message on Facebook: ‘Do you know the number for the police? I was sold to work for Chinese. Now I’m in Pursat on a rocky mountain.’ The map she shared showed her location as the MDS Henghe compound. The police rescued the woman, but played down the incident, saying: ‘She couldn’t stay in the quarantine because it was too quiet’, but could not explain why police intervention was necessary. The largest reported rescue operation at the compound occurred in November 2021, when a police raid extracted over 100 Thai nationals and repatriated them to Thailand. A further 500 Thais were rescued in December 2021 from Pursat, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, and Poipet. This presumably included people from the MDS Henghe compound. According to Thai police, at the time of reporting in January 2022, 1,000 more Thais remained engaged in forced labour in Cambodia and were ‘in need of help’.

The zone has also been implicated in cases of kidnapping. In 2022, Chinese-language media reported the case of a man who claims he was kidnapped the previous December, handcuffed, and blindfolded, then forced to hand over his passwords to his bank accounts and payment apps. After his accounts were emptied, he claimed he was sold to ‘Henghe Park’ in Pursat, then three days later moved to a park in Phnom Penh before being rescued by a Chinese volunteer group and Cambodian police.

A documentary released by Al Jazeera in July 2022 included testimony from four people who claimed to have worked at the compound. One man who worked there in mid-2021 called the operation ‘a very scary place’ where ‘it’s very easy if the company wants to get rid of someone, they just need to dump the person in the mountain.’ He said he was sold to the compound by another company working at Kaibo (profiled here). A 16-year-old girl claimed she was trafficked from China to work in scam operations at the compound in early 2021, and although people could leave the buildings, the compound itself was guarded by security with guns and electric batons. She told reporters there was a ‘small house’ behind the buildings that was for ‘locking people up’. A third interviewee said people who tried to escape were locked up and their families in China pushed to pay ransoms for their release. If they did not pay, people would be beaten while on video calls to their families. He came to the compound after accepting a job promoting online games, but on arriving found out it was an online gambling scam. The fourth interviewee claimed that 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese worked at the compound, and again reported that uncooperative people were detained in a room, where they were beaten, electrocuted, and deprived of food.

Video footage filmed by Al Jazeera showed high walls and barbed wire surrounding the compound. When their reporter asked Chou Bun Eng, vice chair of the Cambodia’s National Committee for Counter Trafficking, about the case, she claimed to be unfamiliar with it, despite rescues from the complex, including of the over one hundred Thais in 2021, having been widely reported.

Footage from 2022 Al Jazeera documentary. A victim points to the building in which he was held. Source: Al Jazeera.
Footage from 2022 Al Jazeera documentary showing the walls of the compound. Source: Al Jazeera.

Long before it became synonymous with online scams and trafficking, the SEZ made headlines due to land conflicts with local people living in the area. News reports going back over a decade document these conflicts. In 2011, The Phnom Penh Post reported protests by farmers blocking bulldozers from clearing their farmland for what was described as ‘a casino project’. In 2014, over 100 soldiers threatened to resign en masse after they were told to vacate land they claimed to have occupied since the 1990s to make way for the SEZ. In March 2014, a local rights monitor reported that a government official shot live ammunition into the air to intimidate local villagers involved in the land dispute. This conflict continued to run, and as recently as July 2022, Khmer Times reported on the dispute, stating that a settlement had been accepted by 24 of 35 affected families.

Which Actors and Companies Have Been Linked to MDS Henghe Thmorda SEZ?

The SEZ was granted to the Cambodian-owned company MDS Thmorda SEZ Co., Ltd. in 2010. MDS is owned by Try Pheap, a well-known and connected Cambodian tycoon. Later, the Chinese-owned Henghe Group (恒合集团) came into the project. Signs at the site now carry the name MDS Henghe Thmorda Special Economic Zone (MDS恒合斯莫尔达经济特区). In 2018, the two business groups registered the joint venture MDS Heng He Investment Co., Ltd.

Signboard at Special Economic Zone. Source: China-Cambodia Monitor.

Try Pheap

Once an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Try Pheap has registered around 20 companies in Cambodia in a range of industries but is most well known for being one of the country’s most prolific illegal loggers. He is the owner of several MDS companies: MDS Group, MDS Import Export, and MDS Thmorda SEZ. Try Pheap was sanctioned by the United States under the Global Magnitsky Act in 2019. According to an announcement from the US Treasury, Try Pheap ‘has used his vast network inside Cambodia to build a large scale illegal logging consortium that relies on the collusion of Cambodian officials, to include purchasing protection from the government, including military protection, for the movement of his illegal products.’ These sanctions also apply to his companies, including MDS Thmorda SEZ.

Try Pheap at a Cambodian People’s Party Rally in 2022. Source: Try Pheap Group.

Henghe Group

Headquartered on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh, Henghe was established in 2018. According to the company profile, it has diversified interests, including real estate investment and development, property management, financial investment, entertainment, tourism development, and international trade. The company plays a prominent role in the Thmorda compound. Not only does the company name appear on signboards at the Pursat compound, but also one of the survivors interviewed by Al Jazeera in 2022 reported that when he arrived in Cambodia he was picked up at the airport by someone with a sign that said Henghe.

Henghe Group Headquarters in Phnom Penh, July 2022. Source: Authors.

At least eight companies registered in Cambodia carry the ‘Henghe’ name, but several others are linked to the group by common associations. Background on some of the associated actors is provided later in this section. As can be seen below, Henghe Group also has companies with projects in Bavet, Svay Rieng Province. Henghe is developing a project called Bavet City and also operates a casino in Bavet called Henghe Casino (or Heng Heng in Khmer). The casino was in the news in 2022 after a 28-year-old Vietnamese man was found hanged there after just one day working at the location. When Voice of Democracy (VOD) interviewed the Bavet commune police deputy, he said that police had no access to the casino: “This location, I have never entered there because it is very difficult to go in and out.” His deputy added: “We don’t know how many people live inside there, and they have never been friendly with us.”



Heng He Bavet Property Co., Ltd.

Zhang Huamin
Chen Al Len
Su Liangsheng
Vinh Huor
Wing Kevin

Waz Lian (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng
Vinh Huor
Wing Kevin
Zhang Huamin
Su Zhongjian (former chairman, left June 2021)

Heng Zuan Yule (Ju Long Town) Co., Ltd.

Huy Vouchleang
Chen Al Len
Hun To
Su Liangsheng
Zhang Huamin

Heng He Julong Town Real Estate Co., Ltd.

Zhang Huamin
Chen Al Len
Hun To
Huy Vouchleang
Su Liangsheng

MDS Heng He Investment Co., Ltd.

Try Pheap
Su Liangsheng
Su Zhongjian (former director, left Nov. 2020)

Heng He (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng

Heng He Investment & Development Group (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng

Heng He (Cambodia) Commercial Bank Plc.

Chen Al Len
Su Liangsheng
Tan Beng Kong
Lit Kok Meng
Wang Mingbin
Syed Khalil Syed Khamarul Azmeer Bin
Hun To
Seng Sophorn (former director, left Oct. 2021)
Yan Narong (former director, left Oct. 2021)

Heng He Luxury Import & Export Co., Ltd.

Zhang Huamin
Su Liangsheng
Zheng Haibo

Heng He Real Estate Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng

Heng He Sihanoukville Property Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng

Heng Zuan Yule Investment Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng
Su Zhongjian (former chairman, left Nov. 2020)

Heng Long Xiang Investment & Development Co., Ltd.

Su Liangsheng

Note: Bold italic indicates chairman/owner, other names are directors.
Source: Ministry of Commerce Business Registry, September 2022.

Wang Dingben

One name that does not appear above is Wang Dingben (王丁本). Wang was appointed a non-executive director of the Cayman Island-registered investment company China New Economy Fund (CNEF, 中國新經濟投資有限公司) in June 2020. According to a biography published by CNEF, Wang was 43 at the time he was appointed, and had ten years of extensive experience in commercial and capital markets in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. This disclosure and the company’s annual report for 2021 state that he is currently a director of Henghe Investment Development Group (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. (恒合投资发展集团(柬埔寨)有限公司). He is also a substantial shareholder in CNEF, holding 7.91 per cent of its shares as of the end of 2021. This is noteworthy as the majority shareholder of the company is CITIC Group Corporation, which holds 24.3 per cent of shares through various subsidiaries. CITIC Group is one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises.

Wang Dingben evidently has access to considerable capital, and in 2020 purchased a hotel called Le Petit Rosedale in Hong Kong for HK$460 million (US$59 million). He purchased the company via a British Virgin Island company called Bo Ren Investment Limited. On Wang, Hong Kong media said: ‘The little-known investor is also currently a director of Henghe Investment Development Group (Cambodia) Company Limited, which develops real estate and manages hotels in Cambodia.’ However, he apparently stays behind the scenes and does not appear in any Henghe Group company records or media reports in Cambodia. Originally born in Fujian Province, in 2018, Wang Dingben received Cambodian citizenship under the name Wang Benson.

Wang Dingben’s naturalisation decree, taking the name Wang Benson, January 2018.

Su Liangsheng, Su Jinde, and Su Zhongjian

Su Liangsheng (苏良生) is a senior figure in the Henghe Group and is the chair of at least eight Henghe linked companies and director at five others. In 2019, the billionaire chairman and founder of Hong Kong company Shimao Property, Xu Rongmao/Hui Wing Mao (许荣茂), visited Henghe headquarters in Phnom Penh. An article on this meeting refers to Henghe Group as belonging to Su Jinde (苏金德). As of 2020, Su Jinde was honorary president of the Beijing Shishi Chamber of Commerce (北京石狮商会). Su Jinde and Su Liangsheng presented their group’s business to Shimao’s chairman, including developments in Sihanoukville, Bavet, and Pursat, and expressed desire to cooperate with Shimao in the future. 

Su Zhongjian held positions at three Henghe companies but stepped down from them in 2020 to 2021. He was also previously a director at KB Hotel Co., Ltd. and RSX Investment Co., Ltd, which are linked to the Kaibo online compound in Sihanoukville (profiled here). Su Zhongjian also stepped down from these companies between 2020 and 2021. He has invested in two other companies with Rithy Samnang—RS9 Investment Co., Ltd. and Koh Smach Island Resort Developments Co., Ltd. Rithy Samnang is the late son-in-law of Senator Kok An, and brother of Rithy Raksmei. These three actors have collectively been exposed to numerous reported online gambling and scam sites, including Kaibo, Jinshui, Triumph City, and Nanhai.

Launch of Henghe Bavet City project, December 2018. Left to right: Su Liangsheng; Bavet City Governor Seng Seila; and okhna Vinh Huor. Source: Thmey Thmey.

Xu Rongmao visits Henghe headquarters in Phnom Penh in 2019. Su Jinde in blue shirt; Su Zhongjian third from right. Source: Beijing Shishi Chamber of Commerce.

Beijing Shishi Chamber of Commerce event in Macau in 2019. Su Jinde in white shirt Source: Beijing Shishi Chamber of Commerce.

RSX Investment makes donation to Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital in 2018. National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha second from left; Su Zhongjian holding paper; Chinese fugitive Xu Aimin in brown suit; Rithy Samnang in grey. Source: Khmer Times.

Donation of US$50,000 to the Cambodian Red Cross by Su Zhongjian, in his capacity as CEO of Pathfinder Travel, April 2021. Source: Cambodian Red Cross.

Su Liangsheng and Su Zhongjian received Cambodian citizenship in 2019 and 2015, respectively. Both are originally from Fujian Province.

Su Liangsheng’s naturalisation decree, February 2019.
Su Zhongjian’s naturalisation decree, July 2015.

Chen Al Len

Chen Al Len holds director positions at three Henghe linked companies and is chairman at one. He also holds directorships at KB Hotel Co., Ltd. and RSX Investment Co., Ltd, which are linked to the Kaibo online compound in Sihanoukville (profiled here). Chen Al Len was born in Fujian Province as Chen Fuzhou but became a naturalised Cambodian citizen in 2018.

Chen Al Len’s donation to Cambodian Red Cross in 2021. Source: Cambodian Red Cross.
Chen Al Len’s naturalisation decree, August 2018.

Hun To, Huy Vouchleng, and Yan Narong

Hun To holds directorships at three companies connected to Henghe-linked actors. Hun To is the nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen. He has a colourful past, and it has been reported that he was under investigation by Australian police for his links to drug trafficking, and allegedly avoided arrest after intervention by the Australian Embassy, who denied his visa application in order to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Huy Vouchleng is connected to two Henghe-associated companies, holding the chairmanship at one and a directorship position at the other. Huy Vouchleng also sits as a director at Hun To’s Olair Import Export Co., Ltd.

Yan Narong, another associate of Hun To, held a directorship at one Henghe-associated company but stepped down in 2021. Yan Narong is also a director at Hui One Life Insurance PLC, at which Hun To is the chairman. Narong took over Asia Prestige Investment from Hun To and his wife in 2011.

Vinh Huor

Vinh Huor (黄华) is a Cambodian tycoon with a massive portfolio of over 40 companies, among which he holds directorships at three Henghe-linked companies. Vinh Huor is Sino-Khmer and has extensive business with both private and state-owned enterprises from China, including in power plants, SEZs, ports, construction materials, and more.

Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals

Su Zhongjian was previously a director at KB Hotel Co., Ltd. and RSX Investment Co., Ltd, which are linked to the Kaibo online compound in Sihanoukville (profiled here).

Su Zhongjian invested in two companies with Rithy Samnang, RS9 Investment Co., Ltd. and Koh Smach Island Resort Developments Co., Ltd. Rithy Samnang is the late son-in-law of Senator Kok An, and brother of Rithy Raksmei. These three actors have collectively been exposed to numerous online sites, including Kaibo, Jinshui, Triumph City, and Nanhai (profiled here, here, here, and here).

MDS Henghe Thmorda SEZ in the News


 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 two held at MDS Henghe.

 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 three people who claim they worked at the MDS Henghe compound and witnessed extreme violence and extortion against people held there.

14 June: Mech, Dara. ‘Death at Casino, 22 Indonesians Rescued in Bavet’. Voice of Democracy. Link.

29-year-old Vietnamese man found hanged on his second day of work at Henghe Casino in Bavet.

20 February: ‘遭老乡绑架数次转手,30多万元积蓄当面被转走 [Kidnapped by Fellow Villagers and Changed Hands Several Times, His Savings of Over 300,000 Yuan Were Transferred Away].’ 58cam. Link.

Man claims in December 2021 he was kidnapped, handcuffed, and blindfolded and taken to a remote area. Under threat of violence, he handed over passwords and kidnappers emptied bank accounts and payment apps. He says he was then taken to ‘Henghe Park’ in Pursat, and three days later moved to a park in Phnom Penh before being rescued by a Chinese volunteer group and Cambodian police.

22 January: ‘Duped Thai workers freed in Cambodia.’ Bangkok Post. Link.

500+ Thais rescued in December after being trafficked to work illegally in Cambodia. Many forced to work near border with Trat province, others in Pursat, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville and Poipet. According to Thai police, 1,000 more remained in Cambodia ‘as forced workers and were in need of help.’


24 November: Mech, Dara. ‘Thai Nationals Rescued, Repatriated from Pursat SEZ.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.

More than 100 Thai nationals extracted from MDS Henghe compound and repatriated to Thailand after authorities raided the SEZ.

18 November: Mech, Dara. ‘Police Rescue Cambodian Woman from Try Pheap SEZ, Deny She Was Sold.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.

Pursat provincial police rescue woman from Thmor Da SEZ but deny that woman was held against her will, stating that she requested help from the police because the quarantine facility ‘was too quiet’.

17 November: Mech, Dara and Cindy Liu. ‘From Timber to Human Trafficking: Rescued Victims Allege Major Scam Operations in Tycoon’s SEZ.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.

Compound at MDS Thmorda SEZ housing online scam operations with thousands of workers. According to rescuers, site is rife with forced labour, detention, and unexplained deaths, with workers trafficked from China.

10 November: ‘被骗至柬从事诈骗,中国男子脸书求助洪森总理后获救 [Chinese Man Rescued After Being Tricked into Cambodia to Engage in Fraud].’ 58cam. Link.

Chinese citizen rescued from MDS Henghe after messaging Prime Minister’s Facebook. Man claims he was tricked to travel from China. After falling sick the operators threatened to sell him to another gang. National and provincial police cooperated to rescue him.

9 November: ‘សមត្ថកិច្ច​កម្ពុជា ជួយ​សង្គ្រោះ​ជនជាតិ​ចិន​ម្នាក់ ចាញ់បោក​ចិន​ដូច​គ្នា នាំមក​ធ្វើការ​នៅ​ខេត្តពោធិ៍សាត់ [Cambodian Authorities Rescue a Chinese Man Who Was Cheated By Another Chinese Man and Brought to Work in Pursat Province].’ Koh Santepheap. Link.

Chinese citizen rescued from MDS Henghe after messaging Prime Minister’s Facebook. Man claims he was tricked to travel from China. After falling sick the operators threatened to sell him to another gang. National and provincial police cooperated to rescue him.

23 July: ‘犯罪集团藏身柬埔寨跨国实施“比特币投资”诈骗 一女子被骗百万 [Criminal Group Hides in Cambodia to Carry Out “Bitcoin Investment” Fraud, Woman Defrauded of Millions].’ Tnaut. Link.

Seven Chinese suspects arrested in connection with online fraud operation based in industrial park in Pursat since December 2019. Operators befriend people in China online and defraud them by encouraging them to invest in fake bitcoin and other products.


27 December: ‘网赌公司路卡仍在 只拦中国人 [Online Gambling Company Roadblock Still Blocking Only Chinese].’ 今日吴哥 [Angkor Today]. Link.

Investigates reports of checkpoints set up by Chinese online gambling operator in Veal Veng, Pursat. Found checkpoints in place, Cambodians able to move freely but Chinese blocked. The remote area has offices, dormitories and a number of shops signed only in Chinese. One person said there are 1,000 people working there, but previously there were thousands more.

24 December: ‘一群中国人在菩萨省通往国公省“特摩达”地区道路设立路障检查路过人员 [A Group of Chinese People Set up Roadblocks to Check Passers-by on the Road Leading to the “Temoda” Area of ​​Koh Kong Province in Pusat Province].’ Fresh News. Link.

Chinese men set up roadblocks in Thmorda, Pursat. MDS Henghe compound was not mentioned, but the details indicate it was compound operators preventing workers leaving.

30 July: ‘绝地逃亡 7名菜农为逃离网赌穿越地雷区求生 [Seven “Vegetable Farmers” Who Escaped from the Danger Zone Escaped Through a Minefield to Survive].’ 今日吴哥 [Angkor Today]. Link.

Seven workers from online scam operation escaped compound, walked through mountains and minefields. They reported having to work 14 hour days and demands of a RMB 30-40,000 fee to leave. Another person attempted suicide the previous month in same compound. Men came to Cambodia through people smugglers via Vietnam. The name of the compound is not mentioned, but description makes clear it is MDS Henghe.

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