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Cablegate: Cambodia's Top Ten Tycoons

DE RUEHPF #1034/01 2211034
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E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive But Unclassified. Not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary. Prime Minister Hun Sen is making efforts
to bridge the gap between the political and private sector by
cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with the
country's most prominent business tycoons. These business
leaders contribute money to the ruling Cambodian Peoples
Party (CPP) and Hun Sen can call on them to fund charities
and public works projects and to attract foreign investment,
achievements for which the CPP can claim credit. In return,
the business tycoons enjoy the added credibility and
legitimacy of having the Prime Minister's support. These
symbiotic relationships illustrate the networks of business
tycoons, political figures, and government officials that
have formed in Cambodia, which reinforce the culture of
impunity and limit progress on reforms such as Hun Sen's
self-declared "war on corruption." Post highlights the
storied lives and diverse investment portfolios of ten of the
most prominent of these well-connected tycoons. End Summary.

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Kith Meng: "Mr. Rough Stuff"
2. (SBU) A dual Cambodian-Australian citizen with a BA from
Australian National University, Kith Meng was born on
September 1, 1968. He is described as a relatively young and
ruthless gangster by Mekong Bank Chairman Michael Stephen
(PROTECT). Another well-connected business man in the
Cambodian community claims that Kith Meng is notorious for
using his bodyguards to coerce others into brokering deals.
As the chairman and CEO of Royal Group of Companies (RGC),
his resume runs the gamut of many different businesses. He
is concurrently the chairman of mobile phone company Cam GSM
Co., Cambodia Television Network (CTN), Cambo Six European
soccer betting Co., and CamLot Lottery Co. He has also
become an exclusive distributor of Canon products. Kith Meng
owns the Northbridge International School and the Cambodiana
Hotel. One of the most widely recognized achievements of the
Royal Group is its new joint venture with Australian-based
ANZ bank, in which both companies established ANZ Royal Bank
in 2005. The Royal Group owns 45% of the new bank. Kith
Meng also recently launched a new Cambodian insurance
company, Infinity General Insurance, through a joint venture
with Kuala Lumpur-based Infinity Financial Solutions.

3. (SBU) Recently, Kith Meng was elected President of the
Cambodian Chamber of Commerce. He also serves as an advisor
to Prime Minister Hun Sen and serves on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, whose President is Hun Sen's wife, Bun
Rany. Politically, Kith Meng has good relations with the
Cambodian People's Party, FUNCINPEC, and the Sam Rainsy
Party. He claims credit for negotiating the three-way deal
among the parties to engineer Sam Rainsy's return to Cambodia
in early 2006. Several sources believe that the CPP has
tried to strengthen its relationship with Kith Meng because
it wants CTN's ability to broadcast to a large number of
Cambodians living abroad. Kith Meng speaks, reads, and
writes both Khmer and English.

Ly Yong Phat: "The King of Koh Kong"
4. (SBU) A prominent Cambodian-Thai dual citizen, Ly Yong
Phat was born in Koh Kong on January 7, 1958 under the name
of Phat Suphapha. He is nicknamed "The King of Koh Kong,"
for his prominence in his home province, which is located in
southwestern Cambodia bordering Thailand. Although he never
went beyond high school, Ly Yong Phat amassed a large fortune
from importing and exporting cigarettes, generating
electricity, and running casinos and resorts. He has good
relations with businessmen and government officials on both
sides of the Cambodian-Thai border, including particularly
close ties to Cambodian officials of Thai heritage such as
Defense Minister Tea Banh, Navy Commander Tea Vinh, and Koh
Kong Governor Yuth Phouthang. Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak
is his cousin.

5. (SBU) As he currently serves as a CPP Senator and advisor
to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Ly Yong Phat boasts to visitors
that he was personally appointed to develop his home
province, Koh Kong. He also sits on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, headed by Hun Sen's wife. He is the CEO
and Chairman of the cigarette distributor Hero King Co. Ltd,
an administrator and majority shareholder of Koh Kong Sugar
Industry Co., Ltd, and the Koh Kong Plantation Co., Ltd. The
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) (PROTECT) reported
that, after receiving land concessions that exceed the legal

PHNOM PENH 00001034 002 OF 004

limit of 10,000 hectares from the government in 2006, Ly Yong
Phat used his influence to send armed military police forces
to grab land from villagers and to clear their lands by
burning down their crops and trees. He speaks Khmer, Thai,
and Chinese dialects.

Mong Reththy: "Hun Sen's Money Man"
6. (SBU) With only four years of schooling at a temple in
Phnom Penh, Mong Reththy has emerged as one of the most
influential businessmen in Cambodia and is often referred to
as "Hun Sen's Money Man." Born in Takeo Province on July 11,
1959, he founded Mong Reththy Group Co., Ltd, which initially
exported rubber to Singapore, Malaysia, China, and other
Asian countries. His company has now expanded and made a
fortune in palm oil and cattle. Mong Reththy has also
launched other companies such as Samnang Khmeng Wat (Luck of
Pagoda Boy) Construction Co., Ltd, which received an
exclusive contract to construct buildings for all of Prime
Minister Hun Sen's charity projects. He has contributed
greatly to Cambodia's infrastructure by building schools,
pagodas, hospitals, roads, and bridges. His business
portfolio also includes the Green Sea Agricultural Co.
economic land concession in Stung Treng province, which is
ten times the size permitted by Cambodia's Land Law of 2001.

7. (SBU) Mong Reththy is likely the closest business tycoon
and ally to Prime Minister Hun Sen, given that they take
trips together to China and they both lived in the same
temple in Phnom Penh, Neakavoan, while attending secondary
school. Also, Hun Sen publicly shielded Mong Reththy by
deflecting accusations made by a former Secretary of State,
the late Ho Sok, when Mong Reththy was implicated in a
seven-ton marijuana drug bust in April 1997. Mong Reththy
owns a private port, Oknha Mong Port (aka Keo Phos Port) near
Sihanoukville, which he uses to export his agricultural
products. Comment: The recently departed Canadian Ambassador
(PROTECT) visited Okhna Mong Port and was disturbed by the
extreme deference customs and police officials stationed
there paid to Mong Reththy, leading her to question how
robustly government port security and customs measures are
enforced. End Comment. Recently, Mong Reththy entered into
a USD 50 million joint venture with Thai billionaire Charoen
Sirivadhanabhakdi to build the first Cambodian sugar refinery
by December 2008, in which Mong Reththy will have a 51%
stake. The refinery will process sugar palm from Mong
Reththy's large estate on the road to Sihanoukville. He is a
Vice President of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, a board
member of the Cambodian Red Cross and serves as a CPP senator
as well as advisor to Hun Sen. He speaks Khmer and limited

Sy Kong Triv: "Pacific Giant"
8. (SBU) Born into a well-to-do ethnic Chinese family in
Kampot on August 8, 1947, Sy Kong Triv is the chairman of KT
Pacific Group, a manufacturing and distribution company that
provides one of the largest varieties of services in the
country. He personally owns many local businesses including
KTE Mitsubishi electronics and the Mondial Center, the
largest business and wedding reception center in Phnom Penh.
He also has joint ventures in a number of diverse businesses
including British American Tobacco (BAT), Eastern Steel
Industry Corporation and SCA Airport, through which he owns a
large portion of the Phnom Penh International Airport. He is
also the co-director along with Lao Meng Khin (co-owner of
Pheapimex) of a Chinese tree plantation company called
Wuzhishan LS, which has been accused of environmental
degradation in sacred ancestral areas, negatively affecting
the health of the local indigenous population, according to
the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)

9. (SBU) Like other major tycoons, Sy Kong Triv is one of
the CPP's main financiers. He is also a Vice President of
the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and an advisor to the
Association of Khmer-Chinese of the Kingdom of Cambodia. He
speaks Khmer, Vietnamese, three Chinese dialects, and limited

Kok An: "Gambling King Pin"
10. (SBU) Born in Koh Kong Province as Phu Kok An on July 7,
1954, Kok An dropped his Chinese last name (Phu) when Lon Nol

PHNOM PENH 00001034 003 OF 004

seized control of the Cambodian Government and discrimination
against Cambodians of Chinese ancestry was rampant. With a
high school education, he started a lucrative business in the
1980s, trading goods between Thailand and Vietnam. In the
1990s, he became involved with the fishing business and the
cigarette industry. He also broadened his business interests
when he started operating Crown Resorts Casino in PoiPet and
soon after built a power plant. Kok An is Managing Director
of ANCO Brothers Company, Ltd, a Cambodian company that
distributes tobacco for Singapura United Tobacco Ltd. (SUTL).
Since 1993, he has distributed the 555 brand of cigarettes
for British American Tobacco (BAT) in Cambodia.

11. (SBU) Kok An has strong ties to the ruling CPP and was
reportedly one of the people who helped pay the USD 50
million in compensation to Thailand for damage to the Thai
Embassy during the anti-Thai riots in early 2003, according
to Director General of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce Meng
Tech (PROTECT). He currently serves as CPP senator and
advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also is a member of
the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and on the board of the
Cambodian Red Cross, run by Hun Sen's wife. Kok An speaks
Khmer, Thai, Chinese, and some Vietnamese.

Sok Kong: "Mr. SOKIMEX"
12. (SBU) Despite having only a third-grade education, Sok
Kong managed to transform USD 50 into USD 50 million in
capital. After fleeing Phnom Penh to Vietnam in 1975 when
the Khmer Rouge seized the city, Sok Kong returned after the
collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime and began a business
distributing and supplying Vietnamese-manufactured rubber
products such as bicycle tires. He soon created his own
rubber mill and secured a contract with the government to
produce rubber shoes made from tires. He also supplied the
government with military uniforms, food, and medicine for
military personnel.

13. (SBU) His company, SOKIMEX, is the largest petroleum
supplier in the country and sells to both the government and
the private sector. Although its primary product is
petroleum from Vietnam, it has also expanded to provide
transport, power, agro-industry, rubber plantations, and
tourism services. One of SOKIMEX's biggest successes was
acquiring the ticketing rights to Angkor Wat in 1999. There
is much controversy surrounding the revenue from Angkor Wat
as reports suggest that SOKIMEX is grossly underreporting the
amount of money it makes from ticket sales. In addition,
Angkor Wat conservation advocates say that insufficient
revenue from these sales is dedicated to temple preservation.
Sok Kong has also allegedly gained a bad reputation for not
paying taxes on oil, but has recently made efforts to
increase tax payments. He is still very close to Hun Sen and
the government hierarchy. He speaks Khmer, Vietnamese and
some French.

Yeay Phu & Lao Meng Khin: "Power Couple"
14. (SBU) One of the most politically and economically
connected couples in the country (after Prime Minister Hun
Sen and his wife and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh and his
wife), Lao Meng Khin and Yeay Phu (aka Choeung Sopheap) were
born on January 1, 1944 in Sihanoukville and May 11, 1949 in
Kampot Province, respectively. They are the co-owners of
Pheapimex Fu Chan Co. Ltd, a controversial logging company
that has expanded to cover salt iodization, iron ore
extraction, bamboo cultivation, pharmaceutical imports and
hotel construction. According to a number of NGOs that
monitor environmental issues, Pheapimex is the company that
has acquired the largest total land area through the logging
business. Recently, the company has shifted from logging
concessions to economic land concessions (ELCs), by which it
now has access to at least 315,028 hectares of land for

15. (SBU) Phu, who is of Chinese origin, uses her contacts in
China to attract foreign investment from Chinese companies
such as Wuzhishan LS and Jiangsu Taihu International. Her
husband, Lao Meng Khin, is a Vice President of the Cambodian
Chamber of Commerce, and he serves as a CPP senator and
advisor to Hun Sen. Together, they have a joint venture with
Sy Kong Triv through Wuzhishan LS for a pine tree plantation
in Mondulkiri Province. This dynamic duo has a rather strong
relationship to Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany. Lao Meng
Khin has accompanied the Prime Minister on more than one trip

PHNOM PENH 00001034 004 OF 004

to China, while Yeay Phu, who is a board member of the
Cambodian Red Cross, is reportedly a close friend and
business associate of Bun Rany. Yeay Phu is also a business
associate of Tep Bopha Prasidh, the wife of the Minister of
Commerce; and Ngyn Sun Sopheap, the wife of the Director of
the National Department of Customs and Excise. The Pheapimex
couple's son is married to the daughter of Lim Chhiv Ho, the
Managing Director of Attwood Import Export Co., Ltd. In
addition to Khmer, Lao Meng Khin speaks Mandarin Chinese and
Yeay Phu speaks several Chinese dialects.

Lim Chhiv Ho: "The Gatekeeper"
16. (SBU) Born in Sihanoukville on October 1, 1961, Lim Chhiv
Ho is one of Cambodia's most well-connected women. She is the
Managing Director of Attwood Import Export Co., Ltd, the
official distributor in Cambodia for Hennessy Cognac and
popular brands of beer and whisky including Johnnie Walker
and Heineken. As a growing company, Attwood has diversified
its services and now owns hotels, real estate and property
development firms as well. The company has received
contracts from the government to develop Special Economic
Zones (SEZs) in Sihanoukville and Bavet near the Vietnamese
border. She has also recently signed a joint venture with
Zephyr Co. to create the Japan Cambodia Development
Corporation, which will establish another SEZ close to Phnom
Penh. To attract investment, these zones offer various
privileges to both local and foreign businesses including a
nine-year tax holiday, exemptions on VAT and import and
export duties.

17. (SBU) Lim Chhiv Ho, a vice president in the Cambodian
Chamber of Commerce, has very strong connections to other
prominent government and business officials in the country.
One of her strongest connections is to Choeung Sopheap (Yeay
Phu), co-owner of Pheapimex Co. Lim Chhiv Ho's daughter is
married to Yeay Phu's son. Lim is a close business associate
of Tep Bopha Prasidh, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh's
wife, who owns 10 percent of shares of Attwood valued at
approximately USD 1 million. Lim Chhiv Ho is also a business
associate of Ngyn Sun Sopheap, the wife of the Director of
the National Department of Customs and Excise. Lim Chhiv Ho
is a Cambodian Red Cross board member and fundraiser.

Pung Kheav Se: "Banking Pioneer"
18. (SBU) A soft-spoken Cambodian of Chinese ethnicity, Pung
Kheav Se was born in 1946 in Phnom Penh. He is one of the
most well-known bankers in Cambodia. Pung Kheav Se fled
Cambodia in the late 1970s to Montreal, Canada, where he made
a fortune buying gold from the central bank and reselling it
at a profit. As the founder of Canadia Bank, the largest
bank in the country, he holds one-fourth of the nation's bank
deposits. He is the owner of the Independence Beach Resort
Hotel in Sihanoukville as well as the new upscale Sorya
Shopping Center in Phnom Penh. He is also currently the
chairman of Cambodia's Foreign Trade Bank and the Association
of Banks in Cambodia, an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen,
and an advisory member of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce.
He speaks Khmer, English and Chinese.

19. (SBU) Comment: Cambodia's tycoons are a close-knit and
powerful group, who often share involvement in charitable
activities like the Cambodian Red Cross and are further bound
together by marriages and business partnerships. Many have
been awarded the honorary title of "Okhna" which over the
last five years has been bestowed on those who have
contributed large sums of money to the government's coalition
parties, CPP and FUNCINPEC. (Most of these donations appear
to have gone towards the CPP party.) Another striking aspect
of this network is the active involvement of the spouses of
government and business officials who are significant
shareholders in various businesses. Hun Sen's relationship
to this group is both symbiotic and self-limiting. The
tycoons help to finance the CPP, contribute greatly to
economic growth, and undertake important charitable work such
as the construction of schools and hospitals, while reaping
the benefits of close government ties. Hun Sen announced a
"war on corruption" in 2004, which was aimed at legal,
judicial, and public administration reform. However, Hun
Sen's very reliance on his tycoon network may hinder progress
in battling corruption, illegal logging, and other sensitive
issues that he claims are priorities. End Comment.

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