Chinese Name: 正恒新能源
Location: Village Muoy, Sangkat Bei, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia
On 18 September 2022, Cambodia-China Times broke a brief story that earlier that day Preah Sihanouk provincial police had raided a building in central Sihanoukville called the Zhengheng New Energy Building (正恒新能源). An anonymous police officer said that the raid was due to suspicions that people were being illegally detained there. This came amid a nationwide crackdown on illegal gambling and connected human trafficking and illegal detention that commenced in September and focused largely on Sihanoukville. The building also bears the names 石头连锁国际大酒店 (Stone Chain International Hotel) and 石头商行 (Stone Trading), but the edifice is branded as a Zhengheng New Energy property.
Initial reports stated that the police rescued nine detainees and arrested seven Chinese men. A later report from Fresh News on a raid of a hotel in Sihanoukville the same day did not disclose the name of the location, but the facts of the case match those of reports on Zhengheng New Energy. Fresh News reported that Interior Minister Sar Kheng provided an update on the case, and in addition to the release of the nine detainees and arrest of the Chinese nationals, 37 undocumented Chinese people were found at the location, believed to have been smuggled to Cambodia. The seven men who were arrested had been tasked with preventing people from escaping from the building.
Media reports identified the raid location as the ‘Zhengheng New Energy Building’, and photos from those reports show the logo of Zhengheng Group. The company Zhengheng New Energy Co., Ltd. (正恒新能源有限公司) was registered in 2021 and its chairman is Chinese national Zhu Ronghui. The contact information listed for the company on Cambodia’s business registry is an email for the Zhengheng Group. No information could be found on the activities of this company.
The building also bears the names 石头连锁国际大酒店 (Stone Chain International Hotel) and 石头商行 (Stone Trading). Stone Chain International Hotel Co., Ltd. was registered in Cambodia in April 2022, but no further information on the company could be found. The authors were unable to find any information on Stone Trading.
Zhengheng Group is a Cambodian-registered conglomerate active in a diverse range of sectors, including banking, real estate, investment, internet, human resources, tourism, and entertainment, among others. Zhengheng’s website was taken offline sometime in September to October 2022, and this profile therefore links to cached pages from the site before it went offline. Zhengheng’s website stated that its business covers Cambodia, China, the United States, Thailand, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, and ‘other developing cities and regions’ in Southeast Asia, but only provided information on its Cambodian portfolio.
The founder and chairman of Zhengheng is Deng Pibing (邓丕兵), a native of Hanshou County in Hunan Province, China. According to one online biography, Deng Pibing came to Cambodia in 2003, when he worked in ‘Internet information engineering’. In 2010, he established the Cambodian human resources information platform CAMHR. He founded Cambodia Zhengheng Group in 2017. According to Cambodia’s business registry, as of October 2022 he held director positions at 20 companies. Among them are Zhengheng Group Co., Ltd. (正恒集团有限公司), Zheng Heng (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. (正恒（柬埔寨）有限公司), and Zhengheng Development Group Co., Ltd. (正恒发展集团公司有限公司), all of which have Deng as a director and Chairman. Three other Zhengheng companies appear in the company register at which Deng does not hold a director position: Zhengheng Property Management Co., Ltd., Zhengheng New Energy Co., Ltd., and Zhengheng Hotel Management Co., Ltd.
Deng Pibing has received the title of ‘Okhna’, which is secured by making donations of at least US$100,000 to the Cambodian government. In 2016 he received Cambodian citizenship.
Deng holds (or has held) positions in various bodies. He is president of the Cambodia-China Culture and Tourism Industry Promotion Association, honorary chairman of the Hunan General Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, and chairman (link no longer available) of the ASEAN Overseas Chinese Business Association and Hong Kong ASEAN Association. Zhengheng is also a founding member of the Cambodia Internet Startup Association (CISA), along with Huawei and the Cambodian Association of Finance and Technology. CISA describes itself as ‘the first Chinese community on venture capital in Internet industry … initiated jointly by leading Chinese companies in the internet industry in Cambodia.’ Deng Pibing is chairman of CISA.
Deng Pibing has networked extensively during his time in Cambodia and has met publicly with a range of leaders and officials including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Land Chea Sophara, Minister for Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona, and Koh Kong Governor Mithona Phouthorng. Deng also met with the Lao Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone when he visited Cambodia in 2019 (see slideshow below). In 2021, Du Jiahao, member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and secretary of the CCP Hunan Provincial Committee, led a CCP delegation to Cambodia. During this trip, Director General Xu Xiangping of Hunan Province Department of Commerce and members of the Hunan business community visited Zhengheng Group’s headquarters.
In April 2020, the company donated US$180,000 to the Cambodian government to support its Covid-19 response. Later the same year, Zhengheng donated US$100,000 to the Prime Minister to help victims of that year’s extreme floods. In 2021, with the pandemic hitting Cambodia hard, the company donated US$50,000 to the Red Cross. In the two months prior it had already donated US$250,000 in cash and medical equipment to the Red Cross, police force, and other units on the frontline of the epidemic response.
In August 2022, VOD reported on the involvement of Zhengheng Group in an online scam operation in Koh Kong at its Long Bay project (for more on this, see the profile here). After this was published, an officer claiming to be from a public relations firm representing the company contacted VOD requesting they edit the story and remove mention of Zhengheng companies and its directors. The company offered to pay to have the article changed. When VOD declined, the officer threatened: ‘We will use legal weapons to attack the media that deliberately and maliciously smear and attack Zhengheng Group. Whether it’s in the US or Asia.’ This is the second time that the company has threatened legal action regarding public discussion of its business structure—it also threatened to take action against the Global Anti-Scam Organisation (GASO) when it published an article on Long Bay. For this reason, it should be noted that all information on Zhengheng referenced in this article—as in every other profile in our site—is from public sources and links are provided. Company data can be found on Cambodia’s business registry.
Deng Pibing has links to Cambodian tycoon Tang Kung (គួង តាំង). Tang Kung leads the Tang Kung Group conglomerate, and is chairman of Jing Kan Co., Ltd. Jing Kan developed the Jingang Hotel (see our profile here), which hit the headlines in April 2022, when a group of Vietnamese attempted to escape from the compound, allegedly rushing security armed with knives. A police raid quickly followed this, 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 the facts of the case make clear that 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. Tang Kung is linked to over 25 companies in Cambodia. One of these companies is Maritime City Co., Ltd., at which Deng Pibing is listed as one of the directors.
Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals
The director of Zhengheng Group, Deng Pibing, has business associations with Tang Kung, chairman of Jing Kan Co., Ltd., the developer of the Jingang Hotel project, which has been linked to illegal detention and online crime operations in Sihanoukville (see Jingang Hotel profile here).
Zhengheng is developing the Long Bay resort in Koh Kong. The partially developed project has facilities for tourists and gamblers, but also reportedly houses scam compounds (see profile here).
19 September: ‘警方根据“热线电话”工作组接到求助个案的调查，发现9名受害者和扣留7名嫌疑犯 [Police Found Nine Victims and Detained Seven Suspects Following Investigation of Case Received By “Hotline” Working Group].’ Fresh News. Link.
Report on the Zhengheng New Energy raid, quotes police and Interior Minister as saying Sihanoukville police rescued nine detainees, arrested seven Chinese, and found 37 undocumented Chinese, likely smuggled into Cambodia.
19 September: ‘西港一大楼涉非法拘禁 警捕7名中国男子 [Police Arrest Seven Chinese Men for Illegal Detention in Sihanoukville Building].’ 柬中时报 [Cambodia-China Times]. Link.
Sihanoukville police rescue nine detainees and arrest seven Chinese men in raid of Zhengheng New Energy Building.
19 September: Mech, Dara. ‘Eerie Silence Descends on Notorious Sihanoukville Scam Compounds.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Roundup of police activity in Sihanoukville mentions raid on Zhengheng New Energy Building.
18 September: ‘快讯！西港一大楼被查 疑涉非法拘禁 [Breaking! Sihanoukville Building Suspected of Illegal Detention].’ 柬中时报 [Cambodia-China Times]. Link.
Initial report on raid of Zhengheng New Energy Building. Unnamed police officer tells reporters that police suspected people were being illegally detained there.
14 September: Dickison, Michael. ‘PR Rep Offers Money to Remove Company From UDG.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
After an earlier report on the rescue of a Taiwanese man from Zhengheng’s Long Bay project, a representative of a public relations firm contacts VOD and offers money for them to edit the article removing mention of Zhengheng. VOD decline and the representative threatens legal action.