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Staff at Somaly Mam partner decries cuts

Facing a budget roughly halved by the Somaly Mam Foundation’s decision last month to terminate its funding, employees of Cambodian NGO Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Precaire (AFESIP) have released an open letter publicly condemning the move.

In a statement published on Friday but only widely circulated yesterday, 20 Phnom Penh-based employees of what SMF only recently described as their “closest partner on the ground”, suggest that SMF donors consider rerouting funds directly to AFESIP Cambodia.

AFESIP was founded in 1996 by Mam, who has been forced to step down from her foundation amid a growing scandal.

“[The] staff of AFESIP Cambodia would like to condemn their irresponsible and inhuman decision to cut down fund[ing] managed by SMF management and [the] Board of Directors in the United States and would like [SMF executive director] Gina [Reiss-Wilchins] to reconsider [this] mistaken decision,” the letter reads.

Reiss-Wilchins informed the organisation on June 12 that all funding from SMF was to be terminated immediately, according to a statement posted to AFESIP’s website on Wednesday by executive director Chhoeurth Sao.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to be paid our salary this month,” said Uong Chheng yesterday, an AFESIP program director, adding that the group cares for some 170 children.

AFESIP received $2.2 million in funding from SMF between 2007 and 2012. Over half of AFESIP’s reported grant income in 2012 was allocated by the SMF.

Mam’s resignation from SMF last month came days after Newsweek published an article alleging that key parts of her story had been fabricated.

Last week, Stephanie Lorenzo, CEO for anti-trafficking NGO Project Futures, which has fiscally supported AFESIP for the past five years, also announced she will be meeting with the organisation to discuss their relationship “moving forward”.

“We’re worried about the women and children living in our centres. What will happen to them if all the money disappears?” Uong said.

The SMF did not respond to requests for comment.

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