Chinese Name: 南海
Location: Independence and Sokha beach area, Sangkat Bei, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia.
Nanhai (南海) is located in Sangkat Bei, in between Independence and Sokha beaches. It is a complex of several buildings, including Nanhai International Hotel (南海国际酒店) and Nanhai Pearl Hotel Apartments (南海明珠酒店公寓), which host several casinos.
In early 2022, China’s Southern Weekly (南方周末) published a dramatic piece of reporting titled ‘Escape from Cambodia’s “City of Online Casinos”’. The article identified numerous locations in Sihanoukville where online scam companies operate ‘hidden’ within, including Nanhai. Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年报), the newspaper of Beijing’s Communist Youth League reported on the situation in Sihanoukville in April 2022, stating that in recent years ‘there have been increasing reports of abuse of employees and forced labour in Sihanoukville internet investment parks.’ It lists several ‘well-known’ such parks, including Nanhai. Both articles have since been deleted, but the Beijing Youth Daily article is accessible here and the Southern Weekly article can be found via Wayback Machine.
A documentary released by Al Jazeera in July 2022 included testimony from a person who claimed he had been sold between online scam operators several times, eventually ending up in Nanhai. He contacted a volunteer rescue group to help him escape, and pictures of the street below that he sent to them show that he was in the Nanhai Pearl Hotel Apartment building. His captors demanded US$3,000 for his release, but after his family paid it, they asked for more, according to information the person provided to Al Jazeera. Eventually he threatened to jump from the building unless he was rescued, but the volunteer team was able to extract him before that happened.
In early April 2019, a large brawl broke out at Nanhai Pearl Hotel Apartments that resulted in a large deployment of police and multiple arrests. Later that year, local Chinese-language media site Tnaot reported that Sihanoukville police had arrested a Chinese man suspected of extorting compatriots at the Nanhai International Hotel. On that occasion, they seized a firearm and successfully rescued two kidnapped Chinese citizens. The report includes pictures of the rescued people with bruises and cuts on their faces and bodies.
Units within the complex appear to be rented out. A Chinese-language ad from 2018 stated that floors 4–24 were available for rent. In addition to panoramic views, the ad also mentions cheap and fast internet, strong mobile phone signal, ‘complete business licenses’, and guaranteed security. One Facebook account called ‘Cambodia Sihanoukville Nanhai Pearl Hotel’ (柬埔寨西哈努克 南海明珠酒店) that was active in 2018–19 appears to have been managed by a group running online operations at Nanhai or recruiting on behalf of people working there. ‘We Are Hiring’ posts include familiar descriptions of well-paid work, aimed at people aged 16–32 who can use a computer and speak Chinese. One ad calls for customer service specialists, as well as administrative staff, promotion specialists, and WeChat developers.
A 2019 report from Angkor Today (吴哥时报) stated that ‘thousands of spinach farmers’ settled in Nanhai Pearl before it officially opened. ‘Spinach farmer’ or ‘spinach army’ (菠菜大军) is a colloquial Chinese term for those working in online scam and gambling operations. One person quoted by Tnaot referred to police raids happening at the time in these terms: ‘The ones arrested are small companies with no connection or who didn’t pay protection fees, no one would dare to touch the ones with connections.’
Facebook jobs ads from ‘Cambodia Sihanoukville Nanhai Pearl Hotel’ account using language typical of online scam operators. Source: 柬埔寨西哈努克 南海明珠酒店.
Nanhai is owned by Nan Hai International Hotel Co., Ltd. (南海国际大酒店有限公司). The complex includes several buildings, among which are a hotel and apartment tower where several operators run casinos. The development was carried out alongside a sister project, the Xihu Resort Hotel, which is discussed in more detail below.
In April 2022, Nan Hai International had its casino license renewed by Cambodia’s gaming commission.
According to Ministry of Commerce records, this company is linked to two Myanmar-born men who have become naturalised Cambodian citizens: Aik Paung (Ek Pong / អ៊ែក ប៉ង) and Sai Aung Linn (សៃ អង្គ លីន). Sai Aung Linn is named on Nanhai’s casino license granted in April 2022. According to a press release by the Shenzhen Huazhou Chamber of Commerce, its president, Huang Junxiong (黄俊雄), is an investor in the Nanhai and Xihu projects.
Aik Paung and Sai Aung Linn received Cambodian citizenship on the same day in 2018. Aik Paung was also granted the title of ‘oknha’ in July 2018.
Aik Paung has been photographed in meetings involving Chinese-born businessman Dong Lecheng (董勒成), the founder and chairman of the Yunnan Jingcheng Group Co., Ltd. (云南景成集团有限公司). Dong is a key actor linked to the ‘Chinatown’ developments in Otres (documented in our Jinshui and Kaibo profiles). The two men were photographed at meetings in May 2018 with Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and in September the same year with the Prime Minister himself. Photos of the meeting with the first lady show Aik Paung and Dong Lecheng presenting plans for Xihu Resort Hotel (see below).
Xihu Resort Hotel
Aik Paung and Sai Aung Linn also own the company Xi-Hu International Hotel Co. Ltd. (西湖国际大酒店有限公司), which owns the Xihu Resort Hotel. The Xihu Resort is located close to Nanhai on the coast between Independence and Sokha beaches.
The Xihu Resort Hotel houses the Xigang International Casino (西港国际娱乐城). The casino website includes links to online betting platforms that target English and Chinese speakers. In April 2022, the company that owns Xihu Resort, Xi-Hu International, had its casino license renewed by Cambodia’s gaming commission. Sai Aung Linn is named on the license.
Links to K99 Group, Rithy Raksmei, and Rithy Samnang
Nanhai and its owners have business ties with K99 Group and its owner Rithy Raksmei. K99 Group is a gambling junket operator that runs gaming tables at numerous casinos and owns one compound that is reportedly linked to online scam operations (K99 Group is profiled in more detail here). Rithy Raksmei is the brother of the late Rithy Samnang, who himself was the son-in-law of Senator Kok An. Kok An and Rithy Samnang are linked to the Kaibo complex in the ‘Chinatown’ area of Otres (profiled here), and Kok An owns the Crown High-Tech Industrial Park (profiled here). Although they do not appear on K99 Group company registration records, both Rithy Samnang and Kok An also appear at K99 Group events.
Rithy Raksmei does not appear on Nanhai company records, but he has been ever present at Nanhai events. This includes the opening ceremony for the Nanhai complex, where Rithy Raksmei and his late brother Rithy Samnang helped to cut the ribbon. Aik Paung also owns a company with Rithy Samnang called 855 Property Development Co., Ltd. The close ties between Rithy Raksmei and Aik Paung were further illustrated by the fact that they were photographed together at a lavish party for the birthday of Raksmei’s two-year-old son in 2018. In company registration records, Aik Paung and Sai Aung Lin both use the same address as Rithy Raksmei.
As noted earlier, K99 Group is a junket operator and has links to several casinos in Sihanoukville. The most conspicuous links are with the Xihu Resort Hotel and Nanhai Pearl Hotel. Xihu features prominently in K99 Group materials and is used as the cover image on one of K99 Group’s Facebook pages. The Xihu Resort Hotel houses the Xigang International Casino, and K99 Group has VIP rooms there. K99 Group also has a counter at the Nanhai Pearl Hotel to service its gambling customers.
K99 Group also has links to New Macau Casino (新澳门), and promotional posts on a K99 Group Facebook page indicate that it runs junkets via VIP rooms there. New Macau Casino is located inside Xihu Resort Hotel, and until May 2022, Aik Paung and Sai Aung Linn were directors of the casino. K99 Group has a VIP room there, and there is also a ‘Haoli VIP Room’. Haoli is the Chinese name of Golden Sun Sky, the company behind the Chinatown development, owned by Dong Lecheng (see Jinshui profile here).
One website that appears to be linked to K99 Group, under the name ‘K99 Win’ and bearing the K99 logo, provides online gambling for a range of games and sports, including cock fighting, which is illegal in Cambodia. Its home page asks users to select their country, one option being China, where online gambling is illegal. It is not clear where the site is run from, but its menu screen includes an image of the Xihu Resort Hotel.
Rithy Raksmei is a business associate of Dong Lecheng (董勒成), who, as mentioned above, has also been photographed in high level meetings with Aik Paung. In 2018, Dong Lecheng signed an agreement with Rithy Raksmei to sell the ‘Jingcheng Tourism Complex No. 1 and No. 2 apartment buildings’.
Links to Suncity and Alvin Chau
In 2019, Macau-based Hong Kong-listed junket operator Suncity Group signed a deal to run VIP rooms at the Xigang International Casino. At the grand opening of the Suncity rooms, Rithy Raksmei helped to cut the ribbon, and also stood centre stage with Alvin Chau and Dong Lecheng (mentioned above) during the celebrations. The year before, Suncity signed an agreement to provide consultancy services to Dong Lecheng’s Golden Sun Sky Entertainment Co., Ltd. Rithy Raksmei and Senator Kok An joined the signing ceremony for the agreement between Suncity and Golden Sun Sky.
At the time this deal was signed, Suncity Group Holdings was chaired by Alvin Chau (Cheok Wa Chau / Zhou Zhuohua / 周焯華). In 2019, Australian media reported that Chau had been banned from entering Australia due to links to ‘large-scale money-laundering activities’ and current or past links the 14K triad—formerly led by ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-koi, who is also active in Cambodia. In 2019, Chinese state media ran a report accusing Chau of running a multi-billion-dollar online gaming operation from Cambodia and the Philippines that illegally targeted mainland China. Suncity denied that Chau had been investigated in Australia for triad links.
In November 2021, the Wenzhou City Public Security Bureau issued a warrant for Alvin Chau’s arrest. He was arrested in late 2021 and his trial began in Macau in September 2022. Among the charges he faces, he is accused of running a massive illegal online and proxy betting operation that allowed Suncity VIP Room account holders to place bets online or by phone in VIP lounges it set up in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Suncity had VIP gaming rooms at the Xigang International Casino.
Donations to Government
Nanhai-linked companies and individuals have made a number of generous charitable donations to the Cambodian Red Cross and Preah Sihanouk provincial government. Several donations were made in partnership by Aik Paung and Rithy Raksmei. Aik Paung made an especially large donation to the Sihanoukville Government in 2018, when he contributed US$500,000 to support the construction of wastewater treatment facilities on the city’s coast.
In 2017, China Construction Southern Construction Group (中建南方建设集团) signed a contract for the lobby decoration of Xihu Resort Hotel. The following year, the Chairman of China Construction Southern Construction Group led a team to Cambodia during which he met with Aik Paung. It is not clear which company handled the main construction.
Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals
Aik Paung is closely connected to Rithy Raksmei who owns K99 Group, which is linked to numerous casinos and the Triumph City compound (profiled here).
K99 Group owns two buildings in the Chinatown area of Otres, purchased from Dong Lecheng. These buildings are close to the Jinshui compound (profiled here), which is part of the area being developed by Dong’s Jingcheng Group. Aik Paung and Rithy Raksmei have appeared at multiple events, including deal signings, involving Dong Lecheng.
The Kaibo compound (profiled here), also in the Chinatown area, is linked to Rithy Raksmei’s late brother, Rithy Samnang, and his father-in-law, Senator Kok An.
Kok An and Rithy Samnang are connected to the Crown High-Tech Industrial Park compound (profiled here), where reports have found people held and forced to work in scam operations.
23 August: Yunnan Jingcheng Co., Ltd. ‘Yunnan Jingcheng Group Co., Ltd Strongly Denies Charges of “Human Trafficking, Fraud, Cyber Fraud”.’ Khmer Times. Link.
Yunnan Jingcheng and businessman Dong Lecheng issue strongly worded statement denying claims made by Al Jazeera, Net Ease, and other media outlets that it is involved in ‘human trafficking, fraud, cyber fraud’.
18 August: ‘柬埔寨詐騙｜曾在中國捲入賭博詐騙案 轉投西港成黑金勢力三巨頭 [Cambodian Fraud: Once Involved in Gambling Fraud in China, He Took Refuge in Sihanoukville and Became One of the Top Three Black Gold Tycoons].’ Hong Kong 101. Link.
Profile of three Chinese tycoons with criminal records who took Cambodian citizenship, and because of their close relationships with Cambodian government and business, have prospered through online crime. Focuses on Xu Aimin, Dong Lecheng, and She Zhijiang.
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 a person who claims he was sold to Nanhai.
1 April: Li, Yiming 李一鸣. ‘难以逃离的柬埔寨西港“中国城” ：被绑架被倒卖，被威胁“沉尸海底”….. [The “China Town” in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, That is Difficult to Escape: Kidnapped, Resold, Threatened to “Sink the corpse to the Bottom of the Sea” …].’ 北京青年报 [Beijing Youth Daily]. Link.
Newspaper of Beijing’s Communist Youth League reports on the situation in Chinatown, Sihanoukville, documenting the testimony of people held in the Kaibo and Jinshui compounds. Includes discussion of Dong Lecheng’s past legal issues in China. Mentions Nanhai as a well-known ‘internet investment park’. (Note: Article was removed from the internet around August 2022 but at the time of writing remains available on some websites not based in China.)
17 February: Gu, Yuebing 顾月冰. ‘逃离柬埔寨“网赌之城” [Escape from Cambodia’s “City of Online Casinos”].’ 南方周末 [Southern Weekly]. Link.
Chinese media reports on the scale of online scams operating from Sihanoukville and the conditions in which people are forced to work. Names several compounds as sites for online scam companies, including Nanhai.
13 November: Tnaot. ‘西港2名中国人遭同胞勒索 1名嫌犯被捕 [Two Chinese in Sihanoukville Were Blackmailed by Compatriots, One Suspect Arrested].’ Tnaot. Link.
Sihanoukville police arrest a Chinese man suspected of extorting compatriots at the Nanhai International Hotel, seized a firearm, and successfully rescued two kidnapped Chinese citizens.
3 April: Hui, Wenlin 辉文林. ‘西港发生中国人群殴事件 多人被逮捕 [Many People Arrested in Chinese Mass Brawl in Sihanoukville].’ 柬中时报 [Cambodia-China Times]. Link.
Large brawl broke out at Nanhai Pearl Hotel Apartments, resulting in a large deployment of police and multiple arrests.