As disgraced anti-trafficking activist Somaly Mam steps up efforts to attract international funding for her flailing NGO Afesip, she continues to have prominent supporters in the Cambodian government—including the prime minister.
Ms. Mam stepped down as president of the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF), which acted as a funding vehicle for Afesip, in May after it was revealed in a Newsweek exposé that she had fabricated her own back story as a sex slave and coached young women to lie about their pasts in order to solicit funds.
But in a letter posted online last week, Ms. Mam calls for donations for her latest organization, The New Somaly Mam Fund: Voices for Change, which she said would “combine elements of the work done” by Afesip and the now-defunct SMF.
The letter follows a series of strategy meetings held in Cambodia earlier this month attended by a handful of international donors, with the aim of coming up with a plan to revive Afesip, which has been forced to scale back its operations due to funding cuts in the wake of the revelations.
According to a post on the National Police website Monday, the wife and children of National Police chief Neth Savoeun traveled to Afesip’s vocational training and rehabilitation center in Kompong Cham province’s Kang Meas district, where they donated money and food.
The post quotes Ms. Mam as saying that since the center opened in 1998, it had taken in 324 children, including 111 victims of trafficking, 101 victims of rape and a further 109 from “vulnerable groups.”
“At the same time, [Ms. Mam] also expressed her deep thanks to Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Samdech Kittiprittbandit Bun Rany Hun Sen, as well as their daughters and sons who always give $5,000 in support each month for the center,” the post says.
On her Facebook page Monday, Ms. Mam thanked General Savoeun and his wife, Hun Kimleng, who is also the prime minister’s niece, for their “generosity and thoughtfulness toward victims and survivors.”
In October, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government would not allow Ms. Mam to operate another NGO in Cambodia following the scandal caused by the revelations, but backtracked from his comments just days later.
Ms. Mam’s new organization, whose headquarters are in Texas, is being jointly spearheaded by her and a former SMF operations director, Rigmor Schneider, who has taken on the position of executive director.
Ms. Schneider told Reuters in an interview last week that she stood by Ms. Mam, who insists she has “nothing to hide” about her past.
Actress Susan Sarandon, who formerly served on the board of SMF, is also a member of the new organization’s board, according to Reuters.
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