Wheel of Fortune: Cambodian data journalists visualize the ruling family’s corporate empire


“I think that within two years my assets will decrease, there won’t be a gain. And besides my salary I don’t have any other income. But I think my children will support me, they won’t let me starve.” – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen when he first declared his assets publicly in 2011, claiming that his US$ 13,800 annual salary was his sole source of income.

In spite of his above declaration, a new report reveals that Hun family members are amassing vast personal fortunes in Cambodia’s private sector, and wield significant control across most of its lucrative industries, with links to major international brands including Apple, Nokia, Visa, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Honda.

The report’s findings rests on data extraction and analysis conducted by Global Witness, and has also informed further data driven reportage by The Phnom Penh Post.

The dataset

The Global Witness investigation was based on official data recently made publically available by the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce (MoC). Global Witness scraped the data and turned it into an online, fully-searchable database called Cambodia Corporates that journalists can use without fear of censorship or prosecution.

Cambodia Corporates is a complete mirror of the Ministry of Commerce’s registration and amendment datasets as of February 2016. It is comprised of 22,808 company registration entries and 7,502 amendments and contains pieces of information no longer published by the Cambodian government.

The manipulation of the original raw data obtained from the MoC’s corporate registry has been kept to an absolute minimum, treated only in the following ways:

  • It was crawled and saved as raw html pages
  • Untouched registration and amendment information was extracted from those saved html pages into .csv files
  • A script was used that normalised data information and created the Cambodia Corporates searchable database. The normalisation process consisted only of:
    • Removing titles from names (e.g. Mr, Ms, Okhna, Lok Chumteav)
    • Standardising spellings for known location names such as ‘Phnom Penh’
    • Correcting obvious misspellings such as “Co., Ltd.”

As well as accessing data via the search interface, users can download it in CSV format and access its source code via GitHub.

When using this database, it is important to note that Global Witness has not verified its contents, and do not intent to suggest that entities included within it have broken the law or acted improperly. 

The visualization

Drawing upon the Cambodia Corporates database, journalists at The Phnom Penh Post created a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ visualization.


Image: The Whee of Fotrune.

The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is at the visualizations centre, with his family connections in the second rung and their associated business connections making up the outer ring. Readers can hover over any segment to see each individual’s name, connection to Hun Sen and company ties.


Image: Hovering over Hun Mana.

By clicking onto a segment, these connections can be explored further.


Image: Exploring Hun Mana's Wheel of Fortune.

According to Global Witness, these connections “should sound alarm bells with Cambodia’s business partners - the Hun family are major gatekeepers to the influx of foreign capital into Cambodia, and the litany of abuses they are linked to pose significant legal, financial and reputational risk to companies and investors”.

It is hoped that by making information on Cambodian companies more accessible, via the Global Witness database and through The Phnom Penh Post’s data journalism, that corporate accountability will be strengthened and responsible business practices will increase.

Read The Phnom Penh Post reportage here and the full Global Witness report here.