Chinese Name: 奥斯卡
Location: Ochheuteal Beach, Sangkat Buon, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia.
The Oscar venue is located in the Ochheuteal Beach area of Sihanoukville and contains a nightclub, bars, and KTV. It is located opposite the White Sand Palace Hotel and sits adjacent to another White Sand building. White Sand Group is implicated in multiple reports of online scams operating from their White Sand Palace Hotel and a compound in the north of the city known as White Sand 2 (see profile here). Media reports have referred to the venue as Oscar KTV and Oscar Casino, but in company materials it has gone by the name 奥斯卡国际娱乐会所 (Oscar International Entertainment Club) and 奥斯卡国际娱乐商务会所 (Oscar International Entertainment Business Club).
In July 2022, several media outlets reported that 10 Chinese nationals were rescued from ‘Oscar Casino’. The story broke when Nokorwat News Daily published details of a complaint that it had received, alleging that 13 Chinese nationals were being held in the building. A Chinese man living in Sihanoukville sent the complaint on behalf of those being held at Oscar to the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor and then shared it with Nokorwat. According to the document, the 13 individuals themselves had already contacted authorities the previous month to complain, but when the company holding them had heard about this they had threatened them and told them to inform the police that they were not being detained. After this failed attempt, they contacted the friend who requested the intervention from the governor. This second complaint provided the building number, room number, names, and passport copies of the people being held. Nokorwat published short, self-filmed videos of 11 of the people, in which they state the date and their location in ‘Oscar Park’ (奥斯卡园区). Most of them speak in hushed voices, some on balconies and some in bathrooms.
The Preah Sihanouk provincial government and police quickly responded and held a press conference in which they denied that any illegal detention had occurred. According to provincial police chief Chuon Narin, the police received the first report on 25 June, from someone ‘falsely claiming’ they were illegally detained. When police arrived to investigate, they did not find the person. When the second complaint was received by the provincial governor on 25 July, the police returned to Oscar. This time they found the people, and 10 said they wanted to leave while three said they wished to stay as they had a steady income working there. The police chief said the case was complicated, but there was no illegal detention.
Voice of Democracy (VOD) reported that police chief Chuon Narin said of the first complaint: ‘When we went down there, this case was not true, the defamatory complaint about confinement. And we could not find the person who filed the complaint to the hotline.’ Of the second complaint he said: ‘We went down there and there were some people who were working, so this is not confinement or another issue’.
There was, however, no explanation of the reasons why people requested to be rescued and then left with the police, if indeed they were not being held against their will. A member of a volunteer rescue team told Cambodia News Today that they had in the past rescued people from the same location. Instead, during the press conference, the authorities turned their attention to the person that filed the complaint, calling on him to come to the police station to discuss the issue along with the 10 people that were taken out of the Oscar building. VOD quoted the police chief as saying: ‘I need to meet with the complainant and want to know his intentions … So far, I am still waiting.’
Two days after the press conference, a Cambodia-based WeChat blogger published an article stating that he had been informed by a family member of one of the ten released people that they had been sent back to Oscar. However, this article was deleted within 24 hours and there has been no further coverage of the case.
This was not the first time Oscar had been in the news. In 2021, videos circulated of a violent brawl at its club. The video showed a group clashing with security guards, who responded wielding electric batons. The group of men and security fought from the first floor to the second floor, until armed military police arrived to intervene. Soon after, the venue owner JR Oscar Entertainment Co., Ltd. publicly apologised for the event, saying their security guards mishandled the situation.
Oscar is owned by the company JR Oscar Entertainment Co., Ltd. As of October 2022, Cambodia’s business registry lists the chairman of the company as Zhang Changgong, who is also a director, alongside Yang Maohai. Both are from China, and Zhang’s address is given as Zhejiang Province. As of 2019, company articles listed Xue Dong (薛董) as the executive director, but he has never appeared in any company registration records. In Oscar WeChat posts, he also goes by the name Cheng Yin (成寅) and Xue Chengyin (薛成寅), and several media reports call him Xue Yin (薛寅). In 2019, according to an article from Oscar’s WeChat account, the Sihanoukville Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce was invited by the commander-in-chief of the Cambodian armed forces to participate in a banquet at its headquarters. Xue Dong was present at this event and is pictured with Hing Bun Hieng, commander of Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, among others. Oscar has not updated its WeChat since late 2019, and it is unclear if Xue still holds his position.
Until February 2022, Myanmar national Ahr San was listed as a director. Ahr San is chair of White Sand Group, which reportedly operates online scam operations from at least two of its properties (see profile here). A White Sand promotional video lists a range of properties under the group, including ‘Oscar KTV’.
The month prior to the rescue detailed above, White Sand Group issued a statement saying that it had transferred all of its shares in Oscar KTV to its ‘original partner’, that all outstanding payables and receivables were the responsibility of that partner, and that Oscar’s relationships with other parties had nothing to do with White Sand. Although Cambodia’s business register shows that Ahr San resigned her director position at JR Oscar Entertainment Co., Ltd. in February 2022, online recruitment message board posts suggest that the location was being used for online operations prior to Ahr San stepping down.
The opening ceremony of Oscar was joined by Rithy Raksmei, the owner of K99 Group, which owns the Triumph City compound (see profile here) and the commander of Preah Sihanouk military police, Heng Bunty.
Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals
Oscar sits opposite White Sand Palace and adjacent to another White Sand building. White Sand Group was one of the original investors in Oscar, but in 2022 issued a statement saying it had divested. Ahr San, the chair of White Sand Group stood down as director at JR Oscar Entertainment in February 2022 (White Sand is profiled here).
26 July: Huang, Yan 黄岩. ‘西港当局否认13名中国人被拘禁 [Sihanoukville Authorities Deny 13 Chinese Detained].’ 今日柬闻 [Cambodia News Today]. Link.
Preah Sihanouk administration and police chief hold press conference and deny that 13 Chinese citizens were illegally detained at Oscar, claiming they were working for the company. Ten people left with the police, who turned attention to finding the person who filed the complaint.
26 July: ‘13名中国人被非法拘禁？西港警长：没有事实根据 [Were 13 Chinese Illegally Detained? Sihanoukville Police Chief: No Factual Basis].’ 柬单网 [Jiandan Net]. Link.
Preah Sihanouk administration and police chief deny that the 13 Chinese citizens were illegally detained at Oscar.
26 July: Mech, Dara. ‘Police Help 10 Leave “Work” in Sihanoukville, but “Not Confinement”.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Preah Sihanouk administration and police chief deny that the 13 Chinese citizens were illegally detained at Oscar. Police state that an earlier complaint was investigated and found to be false, but 10 people left with police this time. Police state they are seeking complainant to help with investigation and assess his motives.
25 July: ‘មានករណីចាប់ឃុំឃាំង និងបង្ខាំងជនជាតិចិន ១៣នាក់ដោយខុសច្បាប់ ប្រព្រឹត្តនៅ ក្នុងកាស៊ីណូ យីហោ អ៊ូវ ហ្សឺ ខា អ៊ុ យៀក ក្រុង-ខេត្តព្រះសីហនុ ,ទោះអភិបាលខេត្តជួយអន្តរាគមន៍ ,ប៉ុន្តែសមត្ថកិច្ចមិនមានចំណាត់ការ ! [Cases of Illegal Detention and Detention of 13 Chinese Nationals in Oscar Casino, Sihanoukville: Although the Provincial Governor Intervened, the Authorities Did Not Take Action!].’ Nokorwat News Daily. Link.
Newspaper publishes complaint written on behalf of 13 people held at ‘Oscar Casino’, along with photos, passport scans and videos appealing for rescue.
25 July: Huang, Yan 黄岩. ‘13名中国人被西港赌场非法拘禁 西港省长回应 [13 Chinese Illegally Detained by Sihanoukville Casino, Sihanoukville Governor Responded].’ 今日柬闻 [Cambodia News Today]. Link.
Thirteen Chinese nationals appeal for rescue from illegal detention at Oscar Casino.
2 February: ‘西哈努克港 娱乐场的现状 [Current Situation of Casinos in Sihanoukville].’ 澳门扒仔 [Macau Bazi]. Link.
Report on brawl at Oscar club, and subsequent apology from the owners.
31 January: ‘疯传昨晚西港发生群殴事件 惊动宪兵 [Crazy Rumours of a Gang Fight in Sihanoukville Last Night, Military Police Deployed].’ 环球博讯 [World Gaming Information]. Link.
Brawl breaks out at Oscar club between group of men and security guards.