CAMBODIA – The Somaly Mam Foundation has shut down following allegations that its former president and namesake, Cambodia’s most famous anti-sex trafficking activist, fabricated details about her own back story and those of supposed sexual-assault victims.
“This was a very difficult decision, but we feel strongly that this is the best course of action for our many wonderful supporters,” says the announcement, signed by the organisation’s former board of directors.
The announcement comes in the wake of a damning Newsweek article that alleged that key parts of Mam’s story had been fabricated.
Among the claims in the article, Mam’s stories of orphanhood and teenage sexual slavery were called into question.
In March, the foundation hired law firm Goodwin Proctor to conduct an independent investigation into the claims against Mam and alleged trafficking victim Long Pros, whom the organisation had featured in media campaigns to attract support and funding.
Mam’s organisation said that Pros had been sold into a brothel, where she had suffered abuse and torture. After the Goodwin Proctor findings, the organisation permanently cut all ties with Pros.
Mam resigned from the organisation in May and, in June SMF announced that it would be “rebranding, renaming and re-launching”.
But today’s statement says SMF “decided that going forward, the right opportunity for our staff and our supporters would be to support” other anti-trafficking organisations.
Last month, Mam finally spoke out for the first time about the allegations, telling Marie Claire magazine she has “nothing to hide”.
“I have not lied,” she said. “They wanted me to say sorry. I’m not sorry for my life.”
At the same time, a new organisation was created under Mam’s name, which says it will raise money for Afesip, a local NGO she founded that lost funding in the wake of the allegations.
By Alice Cuddy