Cambodian anti-sex trafficking activist, Somaly Mam, has resigned from her foundation, The Somaly Mam Foundation, which had hired a law firm to independently investigate Mam’s background, when questions arose pertaining to the credibility of her personal story of abuse. The law firm’s findings weren’t disclosed by the foundation, but they(The Foundation) however, accepted her resignation, which was effective immediately.
“As a result of (the law firm’s) efforts, we have accepted Somaly’s resignation effective immediately. 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 [which] has raised critical awareness of the nearly 21 million individuals who are currently enslaved today,” the Foundation executive director Gina Reiss-Wilchins said in a statement posted on the foundation’s website.
“The foundation’s commitment to eradicating the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls in Southeast Asia remains steadfast, and we ask that you continue to stand with us in the face of these challenging times,” Reiss-Wilchins said.
Mam resigned following the publication of a Newsweek cover story by Simon Marks, on May 20th which cited how Mam’s childhood acquaintances, village leaders and even a cousin contradicted her autobiography, “The Road of Lost Innocence”, and so alleging that key parts of her story had been fabricated. The article also accused Mam of coaching some of the girls the foundation used as examples to tell horrifying – and, allegedly, not always true – stories of their experience as sex slaves, to draw attention to her global anti-sex trafficking mission.
The foundation also included in its statement that the law firm also conducted investigations into the stories girls associated with Mam and the organization had told the public. The foundation retained the investigation’s findings, but said in the statement that one of the young girls, Long Pross, who spoke out as a former child sex slave, will no longer be affiliated with the foundation.
Pross had told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Oprah Winfrey in 2009, that she was kidnapped and sold into slavery where she was beaten and had her eye gouged out. She said Mam rescued her and brought her to one of the organization’s centers. But Pros’ family, neighbors and doctor contradicted her account stating that, a physician performed surgery on a nonmalignant tumor covering her right eye when she was 13, Pros was then sent to Mam’s group to be part of a vocational training program.
“We are permanently removing Ms. Pros from any affiliation with the organization or our grant partner, but will help her to transition into the next phase of her life,” Reiss-Wilchins said
Another girl named, Meas Ratha, now 30 years old, portrayed herself on a French television program in 1998 as a teenager who had been sold to a brothel and was forced to become a sex slave. She has confessed,that she was never a sex slave. That her parents couldn’t care for their seven children so they sent her and her sister to a refuge center called Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Precaire, or AFESIP (Helping Women in Danger), in 1997, whose then president and co-founder was Mam.
Ratha went on to say that, the foundation chose her to go on television after auditioning her. She told the magazine that, the reason why she reluctantly agreed to the fake story about being a child sex slave was because, “Somaly said that…if I want to help another woman I have to do [the interview] very well.”
Reiss-Wilchins said: “Despite our heartfelt disappointment, the work of the Foundation and our grant partners must and will carry on. We have touched the lives of over 100,000 women and girls. We have treated nearly 6,000 individuals at a free medical clinic in Phnom Penh’s red light district and engaged nearly 6,400 students in anti-trafficking activism.”
Source: cnn, guardian