Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO to drop Somaly Mam’s name



NGO to drop Somaly Mam’s name

NGO to drop Somaly Mam’s name

The Somaly Mam Foundation has pledged to change its name following the resignation of its founder and namesake amid allegations that she fabricated details about her own back story and those of supposed sexual-assault victims.

Somaly Mam
Somaly Mam speaks at an event hosted by her foundation at New York City’s Gotham Hall last year. Her name is to be dropped from the Somaly Mam Foundation. AFP

In a statement released Friday, Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) executive director Gina Reiss-Wilchins says the organisation has “been working tirelessly to chart the best path for … moving forward”.

SMF will be “rebranding, renaming, and re-launching our organisation,” Reiss-Wilchins says.

The resignation of Mam, Cambodia’s most famous anti-sex-trafficking activist, from SMF last month came just days after Newsweek published an article alleging that key parts of her story had been fabricated.

Among the claims, Mam’s stories of orphanhood and teenage sexual slavery were called into question.

In March, the foundation hired US-based law firm Goodwin Proctor to conduct an independent, third-party 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 endured abuse and torture. The now-discredited story was first brought to public attention by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and through Mam’s appearance on Oprah. After the Goodwin Proctor findings, the organisation permanently cut all ties with Pros.

Mam is also alleged to have fabricated and scripted the testimony of another woman, Meas Ratha, for a French documentary in 1998.

In 2012, Mam backtracked on a statement she made earlier that year to the UN General Assembly, where she claimed that Cambodian soldiers killed eight girls in a raid on one of her shelters in 2004.

In Friday’s statement, Reiss-Wilchins says the organisation has received “additional inquiries from media outlets including the New York Times regarding Somaly Mam’s resignation”.

“While we do not know the exact scope of these new allegations, some may involve questions about Somaly’s life and the practices of Cambodian NGOs,” she adds.

The statement points out that SMF is a registered nonprofit organisation and is fully audited every year, adding that the 2013 audit will be made publicly available before November 15.

“There is critical work to be done, and our commitment to our work and to the women and girls we serve has and will not waver,” the statement says.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there