Somaly Mam, a prominent anti-sex-trafficking activist whose back-story as a sex slave has been the center of controversy after it was exposed as a fabrication, has resigned from the organization that bears her name.
Ms. Mam’s resignation comes just days after a Newsweek magazine story exposed the lies, and months after The Cambodia Daily revealed inconsistencies in Ms. Mam’s biography and false claims she has made about supposedly trafficked girls.
“We have accepted Somaly’s resignation effective immediately,” reads a statement posted on the Somaly Mam Foundation’s website on Wednesday by its executive director, Gina Reiss-Wilchins.
The statement says that in March, the foundation retained the U.S.-based law firm Goodwin Procter to conduct an independent, third party investigation into allegations concerning the personal history of Somaly Mam as well as the story of one of the foundation’s symbols of sex slavery, Long Pros.
“We are permanently removing Ms. Pros from any affiliation with the organization or our grant partner, but will help her to transition into the next phase of her life,” the statement says.
“While we are extremely saddened by this news, we remain grateful to Somaly’s work over the past two decades and for helping to build a foundation that has served thousands of women and girls, and has raised critical awareness of the nearly 21 million individuals who are currently enslaved today,” it continues.
The statement adds that the foundation will continue to work with Ms. Mam’s Phnom Penh-based organization Agir pour les femmes en situation precaire (Afesip).
“We look forward to moving past these events and focusing all of our energies on this vital work, ensuring that the hundreds of women and girls that are currently being served in our grant partner AFESIP’s three centers for recovery and rehabilitation, receive the care that they so desperately need, and that we safeguard their identities and privacy to every extent possible,” it says.
The Somaly Mam Foundation is the global fundraising arm of Afesip.
A Newsweek cover story published last week detailed numerous inconsistencies and holes in Ms. Mam’s story that she was abused and sold into slavery. The story, written by an editor for The Cambodia Daily, was based on a number of investigations by The Cambodia Daily over the past two years that revealed fabrications in Ms. Mam’s story as well stories told by Ms. Mam to hype up her foundation’s fundraising efforts.
In October 2012, for example, Ms. Pros’ story of imprisonment as a young teenager at a brothel in Phnom Penh where she was held as a sex slave and mutilated at the hands of the owner when she refused to have sex with customers was found to be false.
Ms. Pros’ parents denied that their daughter was ever a victim of human trafficking, had ever been enslaved in a brothel, or had lost her right eye at the hands of a brothel owner. They said Ms. Pros lost her eye as the result of a non-malignant tumor that had developed when she was just 7 years old.
The Daily’s investigation into Somaly Mam