Friday, March 28, 2014

Somaly Mam Controversy

Ever since my 2006 post about Somaly Mam, I have received communiqués via email from Somaly Mam's people. Most of them were critical. One of them alleged that a photo that was being circulated via social media was NOT of Somaly Mam nor her ex-husband. They requested removal of the image, which I did. Too bad for me - turns out the photo was genuine and they were trying to scrub it from the web! If I ever happen across it again, I will re-post it here! I found a thumbnail image April 8, which is what appears top left!  Cambodian sex-trafficking has popped up in recent headlines and blogs.
Last chapter yet to be written?

Legros told he media last Sunday that he wanted his ex-wife Mam to stop publicizing the alleged kidnapping of his daughter and that it had gone too far that the U.N. Secretary-General had taken up the cause. The Cambodia Daily has the story, accompanied by this Legros quote: “She has never been kidnapped by anyone. She escaped from home because at that time I was not there and she have a few arguments with Somaly. She escaped with her boyfriend and she disappeared and Somaly discovered her in Battambang.”

We've seen "reputable" people go wrong before. Some say we have yet to see the worst of Somaly mam. Abigail Haworth goes inside Cambodia's virgin trade [posted on marie claire], where young girls' virtue is treated like a commodity, put on the block by the people they trust the most.

wikipedia offers a little "background" info bolstering the suggestion there's more to Somaly than meets the tamale:

A first public unravelling of Ms. Mam’s credibility came in the form of doubt around some comments she made at the United Nations. Speaking on a U.N. panel to member states, international aid organizations and the media in New York on April 3, Ms. Mam stated that eight girls had been killed after her organization, Afesip, conducted a high profile raid on a massage parlor at the Chai Hour II Hotel in Phnom Penh, where 83 women and girls were taken and placed in her refuge center. Somaly Mam has since admitted that this was “inaccurate” and that the Cambodian army had not killed eight girls.

Further shadows fell on Ms. Mam's credibility on April 25, 2012 as she had to respond to claims by her ex-husband and one-time Afesip director Pierre Legros, that she had misrepresented an incident involving their daughter in 2004. Ms. Mam had long claimed that the teenager was kidnapped and suffered serious abuse at the hands of human traffickers in retaliation for her raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel. In her 2007 autobiography, Ms. Mam wrote that the people involved in the kidnapping of her daughter were released from jail, though a trial was pending. Mr. Legros said their daughter was not kidnapped, but had run away with her boyfriend, and that in his view the abduction story was a means to “marketing for the Somaly Mam Foundation.” The then U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli, wrote in a diplomatic cable in 2004 that Afesip reported that Ms. Mam’s daughter had been “lured by her peers” to Battambang province, where she was later found in a night club in the company of three men who were arrested and charged with trafficking.

And in October 2013, more scandal arrived as reports of crucial but dishonest testimonies arose in the press. The alleged deception took place in January 1998, when Ms. Mam was propelled from relative obscurity into the international media spotlight largely owing to the on-camera testimony of the young Meas Ratha and other alleged victims of Cambodia’s child sex industry. Ms. Mam’s work as president of her own Phnom Penh-based NGO, Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Precaire (Afesip), was being featured on French television as part of the popular weekly show Envoyé Spécial. The documentary opens with the camera lens focused on Ms. Ratha, then a teenager of about 14 years from Takeo province. Ms. Mam is seen seated at the young girl’s side as she tells a dismal story of sexual slavery in an unspecified brothel somewhere in Phnom Penh. Sixteen years later Ms. Ratha (now 32 years old and married) stated that her testimony for the France 2 channel was fabricated and scripted for her by Ms. Mam as a means of drumming up support for the organization. “The video that you see, everything that I put in is not my story,” reportedly were the words of Ms. Ratha.

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