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Cambodia's biggest mobile phone company and television network

Kith Meng grew up in Australia as an orphan and a refugee from Cambodia's genocide. He tells of washing dishes and mowing lawns to make ends meet while living in Canberra. Being a poor outsider made him stronger, he says, and unusually driven.

Back in Cambodia since 1991, Kith Meng, 39, has built his Royal Group into an empire that owns Cambodia's biggest mobile phone company and television network and is developing a $2 billion resort and casino on a fishermen's island on Cambodia's coast. The country's most successful businessman, he supports Prime Minister Hun Sen and benefits from his ties to the government, which granted the 99-year lease on the island for his resort. Kith Meng is a Neak Oknha, an honor the royal family confers on a few of the wealthiest members of society.

Black-and-white photographs of Kith Meng's parents adorn one wall of his office in the capital city of Phnom Penh. They starved to death during Pol Pot's reign, when Cambodia's fertile countryside became the killing fields -- two victims among the 1.7 million, or 20 percent of the population, who perished. Kith Meng fled the terror, first to a refugee camp in Thailand and then, in 1981, to Australia. ``Suffering is my mentor,'' he says.

Thousands of former refugees, with their own harrowing stories, have returned to Cambodia, and now investors hoping to profit in the next frontier market -- a term Standard & Poor's coined for economies smaller or less developed than traditional emerging markets
•- are coming to the country, too.

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