News / Asia

    Cambodian Advocate Quits Over Alleged Fabrications

    FILE - Author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam attends the Somaly Mam Foundation Gala in New York, Oct. 23, 2013.
    FILE - Author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam attends the Somaly Mam Foundation Gala in New York, Oct. 23, 2013.
    Robert Carmichael
    One of Cambodia’s most prominent advocacy figures has resigned following media reports that she fabricated her own life story and the stories of several other women who claimed to be sex trafficking victims. Somaly Mam, who founded the anti-sex trafficking foundation that bears her name, resigned this week following an internal investigation.
     
    Somaly Mam has for years been a leading figure internationally in efforts to combat sex trafficking. In 2009, the U.S.-based news publication Time magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Three years earlier, the cable news channel CNN listed her as one of its heroes.

    Her eponymous non-profit, the Somaly Mam Foundation, is based in New York, and raises money for her Cambodia-based organization AFESIP. That, in turn, operates three centers for victims of sex trafficking.
     
    The Somaly Mam Foundation has long been a favorite with American celebrities. Among its trustees are Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

    Lingering doubts

    But over the past two years, a series of media reports raised doubts about the stories told by some of the women her foundation put forward as sex trafficking victims. More recently, questions were asked about some of the truths behind Somaly Mam’s own well-publicized story as a victim of sex trafficking.
     
    The reports initially ran in 2012 and 2013 in the Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper. But it was not until earlier this year that the Somaly Mam Foundation appointed a law firm to examine the claims.
     
    Earlier this month, the U.S.-based magazine Newsweek ran a cover story by former Cambodia Daily editor Simon Marks that presented many of the same allegations to a much wider audience.
     
    On Wednesday in New York, the foundation’s executive director, Gina Reiss-Wilchins announced that, as a consequence of the investigation’s findings, Somaly Mam had resigned.
     
    Reiss-Wilchins also announced that Long Pros - whose story as a child sex slave who had survived extraordinary brutality appeared in The New York Times - would no longer have any affiliation with the foundation.
     
    No comment


    Somaly Mam has not commented publicly on the allegations or on her resignation. In an email, Alison Nakamura, the foundation’s senior director of communications, told VOA that the organization would not say anything more at this time. The foundation has not released the results of its investigation.
     
    Yet the fallout from the investigation could have wider implications than Somaly Mam and her two non-governmental organizations.
     
    Sébastien Marot is the founder of Friends-International, a highly regarded organization that works in Cambodia and abroad with thousands of street children. He says his concern is that today’s news could hurt other organizations working in the anti-trafficking sector.
     
    “Well my biggest worry is - as a consequence from all this - is that it will give and could give a really bad image of the work done in Cambodia and the work done in the field of trafficking and women at risk," Marot said. "And it would be very, very damaging - it could become very damaging - to NGOs in Cambodia and elsewhere and really undermine the good work carried out by also many of these organizations.”
     
    The Somaly Mam Foundation was established in 2007 to combat the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls in Southeast Asia and has, since then, raised the profile of the issue.
     
    But over the years, some of the claims made by Somaly Mam raised eyebrows, as did the organization’s use of alleged victims of sex trafficking to raise awareness and funds. Its decision to allow New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff to live-tweet a brothel raid in Cambodia in 2011 was also sharply criticized.

    You May Like

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Adam9 from: Dong Nai, VN
    May 29, 2014 1:26 PM
    Too bad, I am deeply saddened by this!
    Many children have been saved by this organization and other NGO's.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.