Philippine Embassy Urges Rescue From UDG, Americans Rescued in Sihanoukville

3 min read
Cars drive past a mall facing the Two Lions Roundabout in Sihanoukville on May 30, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
[responsivevoice_button voice="US English Female"]

The Philippine Embassy in Cambodia requested Cambodian authorities rescue four people trapped in a compound in Koh Kong’s controversial Union Development Group project, according to an official letter confirmed by Cambodian police.

The embassy’s letter, dated August 8, said four Philippine nationals were being detained on the fourth floor of a building within the Long Bay Casino complex in Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor district. The embassy did not know the building number, but said the four were being kept in room number 508, and they were asked to pay “a large sum of money” to leave.

“In this regard, the Embassy requests the kind and immediate response of the general commissariat of the national police in facilitating the immediate release of 4 Filipinos from employment of the unknown Chinese company, the return of their passports, salaries and the transfer of them to a safe area,” says the letter, which was circulated on social media.

Sar Sarath, spokesperson for Koh Kong provincial police, on Saturday acknowledged he had received the letter, and his office was working on the case and had requested assistance from National Police. 

“I received it two days ago and handed it to a specialist team to handle it, and the hotline also received it too,” Sarath said, without specifying which hotline received the complaint. “So far I have not received a report back yet, but they told me they are working on it.”

He added that foreigners from two or three countries had requested rescue from the Long Bay casino area, but he was not sure if Philippine nationals had previously requested help. All of the requests for rescue came from the Long Bay Casino complex, he said.

“In some cases, [the situation] is not like what they said in their complaint to us, and when we investigate, they have already left,” Sarath said. “In other cases, we found it was like what they reported to us.”

The Long Bay casino is operating within a 45,000-hectare economic land concession granted to Union Development Group in 2008. UDG, a company sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged Chinese naval connections and brutal eviction of local residents, is owned by Chinese company Tianjin Youlian Development company, and the Cambodian subsidiary is directed by Chinese national Li Mengchen.

The Long Bay Casino is backed by a second, separate company, ZhengHeng Group, which also controls tycoon Yim Leak’s BIC Bank, the employment platform CamHR and a security company.

Separately, in Sihanoukville, provincial authorities said they had brought into custody two American men and one Indonesian woman from a Buon commune online business where they said they were detained.

According to Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson Kheang Phearum, a hotline team led by Interior Minister Sar Kheng received a complaint seeking rescue for the three people: an American man, a Cambodian American man and an Indonesian woman.

When authorities arrived at the site late last week, they found no locks on the door nor guards at the front of the building, Phearum said. After the three people were brought in for questioning, officials assessed that the group had not been detained or tortured, but all three requested to return to Phnom Penh.

The three were offered salaries between $800 and $1,000 per month with potential bonuses between $10,000 and $50,000, Phearum added.

Local media Cam Post reported that one of the American men had been recruited by two accomplices and intended to learn how to start their own online business from the place they were detained — identified as Jin Bei 4.

According to Commerce Ministry records, there are three Sihanoukville hotel properties with Jin Bei in the name, all directed by Ing Dara and Zhu Jack. A fourth business, Jin Bei Group, is directed by the same two people, but was formerly directed by Guy Chhay, an entrepreneur who is also connected to the Prince Group.

VOD. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission. VOD is not responsible for any infringement in all forms. The perpetrator may be subject to legal action under Cambodian laws and related laws.