Spokesman Backtracks on Somaly Mam NGO Ban

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Monday backtracked on comments he made last week, when he said that disgraced anti-trafficking activist Somaly Mam would not be allowed to operate another NGO in Cambodia.

On Thursday, Mr. Siphan said that Ms. Mam—who resigned from the Somaly Mam Foundation in May after a Newsweek article revealed that she had fabricated her back story as a sex slave—had “misled the world” and would be prevented from running another NGO.

“We don’t see her acting right now [but] if she does have activities we can stop her from doing that, because it is a breach of trust because she used a huge amount of international money,” he said Thursday.

“So, she has no right to do that activity anymore and we don’t want to see this kind of case again,” he added at the time.

But in a letter dated Monday sent to Afesip, the anti-trafficking NGO Ms Mam founded, Mr. Siphan reversed his earlier position.

“Since the miss-code [sic] by some articles and publicly articulated, may I reiterated that Royal Government of Cambodia have no any intention of blocking or detouring the humanity activities of AFESIP and well as Mrs. SOMALY MAM for ongoing operates in the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he wrote in the letter, which was posted to Afesip’s Facebook page.

Mr. Siphan said Cambodia has yet to pass a law regulating nongovernmental groups.

“Only court and Ministry of Interior may notify NGOs to halt of any activities what is through that would be affected the law and national security,” he wrote.

“Since AFESIP and Mrs. SOMALY MAM cause no government liability and public order as well as national security abused, we still highly respect and fully support its and her activities on going in good faith and accountability.”

Contacted Monday, Mr. Siphan confirmed he had sent the letter and said the government would not interfere in the “private” matters of NGOs.

“[This is] none of the business of the government,” he said.

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