Cambodian anti-trafficking campaigner Somaly Mam exposed as fraud


Asia Correspondent

A Cambodian woman who for many years was the face of the country’s campaign against sex trafficking has resigned from the foundation that carries her name after allegations were made that parts of her often-told story were untrue.

Somaly Mam, whose foundation’s work was featured on Oprah Winfrey’s television shows and who shared platforms with the likes of Angelina Jolie, resigned from the Somaly Mam Foundation after the latest in a series of articles accusing her of inconsistencies appeared.

Among the claims she had made that were alleged to be untrue was that she was an orphan and had been abducted as a child. Doubts were also cast on an account about women being killed in a 2004 attack on her organisation’s offices in Phnom Penh. Questions have also been raised about claims that her teenage daughter was kidnapped and gang-raped in “revenge” for her anti-trafficking work.

Ms Mam is known around the world and her story was cited as a inspirational tale by everyone from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to Hillary Clinton. Her 2005 autobiography, The Road of Lost Innocence, became an international hit.

Ms Mam’s resignation came after her NGO, which has raised millions of pounds to fight sex-trafficking in South East Asia, hired lawyers to investigate her story following questions being raised by the media. The lawyers, Goodwin Procter LLP spent two months going through the NGO’s records and files.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the NGO said it had accepted Ms Mam’s resignation with immediate effect. The NGO also said it was breaking ties with another woman, Long Pross, who was frequently presented as a former child sex slave and about whom a documentary was made. Media reports have suggested she was in fact never a sex worker but joined Ms Mam’s NGO when her parents could not care for her.

“While we are extremely saddened by this news, we remain grateful to Somaly’s work over the past two decades and for helping to build a foundation that has served thousands of women and girls, and has raised critical awareness of the nearly 21 million individuals who are currently enslaved today,” said Gina Reiss-Wilchins, executive director of the Somaly Mam Foundation.

The Somaly Mam Foundation is the global fundraising arm of AFESIP, Ms Mam’s Cambodian-based NGO whose work has caught the attention of movie-stars and monarchs.

The foundation with continue to work with AFESIP to work against trafficking, said Ms Reiss-Wilchins. She added: “We look forward to moving past these events and focusing all of our energies on this vital work.”

The allegations of inconsistencies in Ms Mam’s story were made by journalist Simon Marks, who wrote several stories, beginning in 2012, for the Cambodia Daily. His most recent article appeared in the 21 May edition of Newsweek magazine. Ms Mam has yet to publicly comment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments