Somaly Mam foundation shuts down

Somaly Mam
Author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam attends the Somaly Mam Foundation Gala at Gotham Hall in New York last year. AFP

Somaly Mam foundation shuts down

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.

In a statement released early this morning, the foundation announced that it had “officially ceased all operations, ended all grant funding, and permanently closed our doors” on September 30.

“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.

MOST VIEWED

  • Twenty years after Pol Pot died a broken man, his memory looms large

    Two decades have passed, but Mea Chron still stands by Pol Pot. Most days he also stands by the mass murderer’s cremation site, keeping guard in the Khmer Rouge’s last stronghold of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot, the widely reviled despot who spearheaded the

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • ‘Trouble’ foreseen in Khmer New Year almanac

    At 9:12am on Saturday, Cambodia’s devout can expect the arrival of Moha Thorathevey, an angel on a peacock holding a trident in one hand and an auspicious serrated wheel in the other. The angel, who has a liking for water hyacinths, will usher in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the