The Cambodian founder of the world's most famous foundation involved in fighting sex trafficking finally had the decency last week to step down. Somaly Mam, the 43-year-old Siem Reap resident is famous for heart-tugging, money-raising adverts. Now her life story, her own family history and her actions in supposedly fighting human traffickers and helping their victims have been exposed as lies. She took up a worthy cause, which was built into a rich and glamorous business that lost sight of its purpose and destroyed Mam.
Mam is a victim of this sad tale. But first of all, she also is its perpetrator. For the past two years, people in Cambodia and Thailand have known she was a fraud. But powerful foreign backers milked and used her and Cambodian children in their own useless attempts to "be connected" with the right cause. Big foreign companies, movie stars and the overseas hi-so travellers showed for those two years they had no concern about seriously battling child sex trafficking, so long as their photos and names appeared in all the right press releases.
The Somaly Mam Foundation came into being in the United States in 2007. It was an outgrowth of Mam's highly fictionalised, best-selling "biography" called The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine. It was the sensational tale of an innocent young Khmer woman, raised during the Khmer Rouge days, sold into sexual slavery as a teenager. It told how she escaped the sordid life, and began an organisation dedicated to helping young girls caught in the life she had suffered.
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