An island holiday resort currently under construction off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province has been renamed in an effort to make the $300-million project more attractive to investors and visitors, an official with the prime minister’s office said Tuesday.
Eang Sophalleth, an assistant to the prime minister, said officials with Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd met with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday and requested changing the name Koh Puos (Snake Island) to Koh Morakath (Emerald Island).
“It’s just a marketing strategy for attracting more guests,” Eang Sophalleth said, adding that Hun Sen agreed to the change.
Changing the name of the island may also help weaken past associations with convicted Russian pedophile Alexander Trofimov, the executive director of Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd when police arrested him in 2007 for sexually abusing 19 young girls. On Jan 20, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court found Trofimov guilty in two separate child abuse cases and sentenced him to a total of 11 years in prison.
Alexander Kiryushin, chairman of the board of directors for the company, could not be reached by telephone or e-mail Tuesday. A man who answered the telephone at the company’s office in Sihanoukville said no one was available to comment. Koh Puos Investment Group has not answered questions regarding whether Trofimov is still connected to the company.
Koh Puos Investment Group signed a 99-year lease with the government in September 2006 to develop the 120-hectare island into a shopping and tourist resort. Construction of hotels and bungalows is scheduled to begin this year and finish in 2013, according to the company’s Web site.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Governor Sbong Sarath dismissed the notion that Trofimov’s high-profile court cases may have spurred the company to seek the name change, adding that it was more likely the reference to snakes.
“It might be because Koh Puos [snake island] makes visitors scared of its meaning,” he said.
Tuesday by telephone.