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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas