How common is sex trafficking in Cambodia? Why did Somaly Mam lie?

How common is forced sex trafficking?
Are all prostitutes sex trafficking victims?
What is the difference between a prostitute and a sex trafficking victim?
Are prostitutes children? Or are they consenting adults?
Why did Somaly Mam have to lie and invent victims? Was it because she couldn’t find any REAL victims?
The downfall of anti-sex-slavery activist Somaly Mam has led some to question the extent of trafficking.
 Phnom Penh, Cambodia - In early 2011, Srey Mao, 28, and two friends were “rescued” and taken to a shelter run by Afesip, a Cambodian organisation that prides itself on helping sex-trafficking victims recover from trauma while learning new trades such as sewing and hairdressing.

There was just one problem: The women claim they hadn’t actually been trafficked.

Instead, the women said they were willing sex workers who had been rounded up off the street during a police raid and sent to Afesip, headed by the internationally renowned anti-sex-slavery crusader Somaly Mam with funding from the foundation that bears her name.

They said they were confined there for months as purported victims of sex trafficking. Srey Mao claimed that she, her friends and a number of other sex workers in the centre were instructed by a woman to tell foreign visitors they had been trafficked.

“I was confined against my will,” Srey Mao said on Saturday.

The person she said instructed ordered her and others to lie was Somaly Mam.

Falling star

For the better part of a decade, Mam has been the celebrated face of anti-human trafficking efforts in Cambodia.

With her undeniable charisma and tragic back-story as a former child sex slave, she has rubbed shoulders and traded hugs with Hollywood stars such as Susan Sarandon and Meg Ryan. CNN dubbed her a “hero” in 2007. Glamour Magazine made her a “woman of the year” honoree in 2006.

In 2010, then-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited an Afesip shelter here and later spoke about her moving encounter with Long Pros, a former sex slave who said her eye was gouged out by a brothel-keeper. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, one of Mam’s strongest supporters, wrote about Pros and his “hero” Mam.

Mam’s star-studded image abruptly lost its sheen on May 28, when she was forced to resign from the Somaly Mam Foundation following a Newsweek cover story reporting that she had lied about her past.

Not only had Mam not been an orphaned trafficking victim – reporter Simon Marks revealed in Newsweek that she grew up with both parents and graduated from high school – but she reportedly encouraged and coached girls to lie as well.

One of these girls was Pros, who, according to Newsweek, actually lost her eye to a tumor and was sent to Afesip for vocational training. The same was reportedly true of Meas Ratha, a teenager allegedly coached by Mam to say she had been trafficked when in fact she was sent to Afesip by an impoverished farming family, desperate to give their daughter a better start in life.

Afesip representatives did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’

Although the stories of Mam, Pros and Ratha have now been widely scrutinised in the media, less examined have been Mam’s frequent embellished statements about the scale and nature of sex trafficking in Cambodia.

The term “trafficking” has become trendy among donors in the Western world for the pure horror it evokes – a horror that Pros embodied for many – but it leaves out a whole spectrum of complex choices and negotiations, and often erases women’s agency entirely.

Sebastien Marot, founder of the nongovernmental organisation Friends International, which works with street children and other vulnerable populations, has lived in Cambodia since 1994. In all his years in the country, he said he has encountered only a handful of what he considers clear-cut cases of sex slavery, despite the lavish funding and massive attention from celebrities that the cause attracts.

“There’s definitely fashions in the donor world,” he said. “The big thing now is trafficking – people say, ‘Oh my God, trafficking’ – but how do we define that?”

Mam and her foundation have interpreted the term liberally, claiming repeatedly, along with Afesip, that sex slaves in Cambodia number in the tens of thousands.

In 2011, Mam told an interviewer that there were 80,000 to 100,000 prostitutes in Cambodia, 58 percent of whom were trafficked. In a 2010 Somaly Mam Foundation video, Hollywood actress Lucy Liu solemnly intoned in a voiceover that “the low-end estimate for the number of sex slaves in Cambodia alone is over 40,000″. Mam has also claimed that it is commonplace for children as young as 3 to be sold into sex slavery in Cambodia.

The source for these numbers is unclear, and according to some, wrong.

study published in 2011 by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Trafficking based on data collected in 2008 stated that the number of sex trafficking victims in Cambodia is 1,058 at most, including 127 children, six of whom were under the age of 13. The majority of these cases involved women who had fallen into debt to their brothels, or prostitutes under the age of 18. These are both abhorrent and illegal, but they are a far cry from the extreme scenarios Mam often invoked – girls put in cages, tortured with electricity, having their eyes gouged out by pimps.

“We never encountered any such thing, and we certainly looked for it,” the study’s author, Thomas Steinfatt, said this week. “We couldn’t find any instances of that … In terms of people tortured, I think they’ve been watching too many movies.”

Steinfatt, a professor at the University of Miami, said the figure of 1,058 is still an accurate estimate of the number of sex trafficking victims in the country. Although he has been criticised by some anti-sex-slavery activists for producing such a low figure, he is the only researcher to have systematically canvassed Cambodia seeking out brothels and collecting data on the women and girls inside.

“Sex trafficking is actually one of the smaller portions of trafficking,” he said. “Much more [trafficking] goes on in labour or domestic work. It’s quite literally the ‘sexiest’ topic, and it’s something that really bothers people – which it should, but it’s not the largest.”

Helen Sworn, the founder of anti-trafficking coalition Chab Dai, noted that other researchers have disputed Steinfatt’s findings and methodology, though added that Steinfatt’s estimate “was the best available number” before laws introduced in 2008 and 2009 that caused “a significant shift underground of incidents, which was not addressed in the previous research”. However, Sworn said Mam’s resignation should be an impetus for soul-searching from NGOs on how to proceed in the future.

“Of course this will have repercussions on the sector, which is why we need to be intentional and professional in the way we implement programs,” she said. “Funding has always been a challenge for those who don’t exploit the dignity of others, so maybe this just makes for a more democratic platform where it will be equally challenging.”

Mam’s embellishments have also distracted attention from the very serious problems Cambodia still faces, including the structural reasons why 1,058 women and girls might be forced into prostitution and why sex work is often seen as the best job available.

‘Victim’ or ‘prostitute’?

“Abolitionist” NGOs such as Afesip take the position that sex work is by definition coercive, and that it is impossible to choose to be a prostitute. In a 2008 interview with the Phnom Penh Post, Mam noted that she preferred to use the term “victim” rather than “prostitute”, and that women who thought they were voluntary sex workers could actually be sex slaves.

In 2006, in response to complaints by sex workers that they did not like being sent to NGO-run shelters after police raids, Afesip advisor Aarti Kapoor told The Cambodia Daily, “We don’t believe prostitution is a legitimate form of work”. This led Afesip to support a draconian anti-human trafficking law, which was passed by Cambodia’s parliament in 2008 and, some advocates claim, ramped up police abuses against sex workers like Srey Mao.

Srey Mao said she became a prostitute because she believed it was the best option to support her aging parents and young daughter. Months in the Afesip shelter did not change her mind. She claims that after she arrived at the shelter, she was not given access to anti-retroviral drugs for five days or allowed to see her family. Instead, she was enrolled in a yearlong sewing course, entailing eight hours a day of study or garment work.

“I was not happy to be there … Very often, during our short break for lunch, Afesip staff and sometimes Mam Somaly came to us and told us to tell donors and foreigners who would come to visit shelters that we were victims of human trafficking.”

Seven months into her stay at the shelter, Srey Mao ran away and returned to life as a prostitute.

Somaly Mam lying to politicians and celebrities

Article link from Aljazeera

The Story of Somaly Mam – click below for larger image:

cartoon of somaly


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Posted in Asia, Cambodia, charities, Chong KIm, Eden movie, human trafficking, Long Pros, NGO, non-profit, philippines, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Thailand, Uncategorized

USA Tips Report is forcing people to lie about being sex trafficking victims

The United States government is forcing  people to lie about being sex trafficking victims  because they can’t find enough real victims!

(John Kerry, Obama, Hillary Clinton and the USA government are forcing people to lie about being victims – if they don’t lie they are put in jail or deported using the TIPS report) 

Today we will hear about Thailand’s Tier in America’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. Never forget the TIP report is also a programme. America makes demands under TIP and countries, including Thailand, ignore their own sovereignty, and comply. TIP demands that countries change laws, speed up justice (a conflicting thought), and set aside special treatment for one class of victims that the US can never find enough of. Every TIP report whines about the need to find more victims and prosecute more traffickers and then throw away the key. But the Somaly Mam expose in the Bangkok Post on June 1 and around the world has shown us that this issue has suffered extreme exaggeration by those who need funding and by media who benefit from sensational stories. Read a few blogs about trafficking and you too will quickly learn that “facts” about trafficking often defy common sense. 

Every resident of Thailand, Thai and foreigner , should read TIP reports and see what they are really about. On page 4 of the 2013 TIP report the United States offers Taiwan as an example for other countries to follow. TIP tells us Taiwan has detention centres at its borders to hold new arrivals until they can be investigated as possible trafficking victims. Detainees are offered long-term immigration status (a kind of bribe) and release from detention in exchange for agreeing to claim to be victims and turn on people who helped them get a job in Taiwan. I am shocked, even scared, that my country (USA) encourages this.  

-John Kane

Bangkok Post


The United States government is forcing  people to lie about being sex trafficking victims  because they can’t find enough real victims!

This week the USA’s Trafficking in persons (TIP) report came out with Secretary of State John Kerry releasing it.

There is only one problem with it. – It is based on lies, exaggeration, myths and emotional made up stories.

Is anyone talking about the huge influence Somaly Mam, Nicholas Kristof and Chong Kim may have had on US foreign policy with Sex Trafficking? Every year the TIP report demands countries find victims and traffickers but what if the constant demand to find more and more is based on this media distortion and they really aren’t there to find. American citizens and Congress are all deceived over what may be a faux-issue. Articles I read say this woman is not the only one who has exaggerated, but is the one seen with President Obama and Hillary Clinton when she was Sec State. With John Kerry, Michelle Obama, and with The Queen of Spain. For me this is the real issue. The TIP program is no more than Modern Day Imperialism. What has happened to that old concept of national sovereignty?

Somaly Mam and Chong Kim were caught lying about Sex Trafficking

Somaly Mam, the celebrated Cambodian anti-sex-trafficking activist who, according to a recentNewsweek expose, fabricated her entire life story and those of the alleged victims she advocated for. The revelations have disillusioned many of Mam’s loyal supporters and left the press looking gullible. Just as importantly, they’ve highlighted the public’s seemingly insatiable desire for heroic narratives—and the willingness of many in the media to trick the public and provide them even if they are fake.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s TIP report:

Cartoon drawing explaining the Somaly Mam issue

Simon Marks interview about Somaly Mam

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Posted in Atlanta, attorney general, California, Cambodia, charities, Chong KIm, colorado, Denver, human trafficking, India, Long Pros, NFL, NGO, non-profit, philippines, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Thailand, Uncategorized

Chong Kim of the film Eden is a Fraud lying about Sex Trafficking

Chong Kim and Megan Griffith are committing Fraud – Lying about sex trafficking to make money with the Eden Movie.


By Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Below is brief section of the article:

And now we are seeing so many of these horror stories fall apart. First it was Somaly Mam, the activist whose own sex trafficking story, as well as those of some of her star “rescues,” turned out to be false. After years of international support and acclaim, Mam—a favorite of The New York Times’ Nicolas Kristof—was exposed by Newsweek as a fraud.

Now Chong Kim’s story, too, may be coming apart. Last week Breaking Out, a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking of all forms, posted the following message on Facebook:

We regretfully want to inform everyone the results of a year long investigation by our highly experienced investigative unit, that Chong Kim whom has claimed to be a survivor of human trafficking is not what she claims to be.

After thorough investigation into her story, people, records and places, as well as, many interviews with producers, publishers and people from organizations, we found no truth to her story. In fact, we found a lot of fraud, lies, and most horrifically capitalizing and making money on an issue where so many people are suffering from.

According to Breaking Out’s founder, James Barnes, it and several other organizations were defrauded by Chong, who was collecting money in their names without actually passing any of it on. “We are ready with others supporting us to take full legal action against Chong Kim,” Barnes’ statement said.

The absense of any attempt at verification—from the authors who repeated Kim’s story, the journalists who interviewed her, the organizations that brought her on as a speaker, or any of the myriad people behind the “based on a true story” Eden—makes it pretty clear that nobody wanted to find holes in Kim’s story. We want victim narratives so badly that we refuse to listen to sex workers when they say they’re not victims and leap at the chance to tell the stories, no matter how apocryphal, of those whose tales conform with our expectations.

“Moral panic deployed to appeal to outraged empathy, or sexploitation deployed to appeal to giggling prurience; they both function in much the same way,” wrote Berlatsky. And with sex trafficking tales, we get a two for one. It’s almost too good to resist. But let’s try.

Article Link and more about the Chong Kim and Eden fraud:

Chong Kim sex trafficking fraud – lying is common with sex trafficking

Here are some good articles that have a good summary of the Somaly Mam, and Nicholas Kristof controversy about them lying about Sex Trafficking:  petition to fire Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times

Swallowing the camel summary of Somaly Mam

Newsweek story of Somaly Mam

Laura Agustin on Somaly Mam

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Posted in attorney general, charities, Chong KIm, colorado, Denver, Eden movie, human trafficking, Long Pros, movie, NGO, non-profit, philippines, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, super bowl, Taken, Uncategorized

Nicholas Kristof telling lies about Sex Trafficking

Somaly Mam goes down while Nicholas Kristof ‘pokes around’
Thanhnien news
Saturday, June 07, 2014
Former sex-trafficking super-starlet Somaly Mam resigned early this month afterNewsweek published a big story on her trouble with the truth.
Now the media sharks are circling for her chief propagandist and international cheerleader—NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
If Kristof gets what he deserves from this scandal, he’ll lose his byline.
Mam, a former prostitute, built a virtual empire based on the premise that she is “eradicating” something called “sexual slavery.” Her star began to rise in 1998, when French camera crews captured the beautiful former sex worker cradling young women who had horrible stories to tell.
The money really started rolling in for Mam (and her namesake foundation) after Kristof began gushing to the American public about Mam—whom he repeatedly called his “hero.”
The trouble is, very little of what Mam said, about herself and her alleged success stories, was true.
But that’s old news.
For those who have kept up with this matter, this month’s Newsweek piece is nothing but the greatest hits album of a young reporter named Simon Marks who actually did what Kristof has only pantomimed doing: covering Somaly Mam.

Somaly Mam, co-founder and president of the Somaly Mam Foundation. Photo credit:

Over the past few years, Marks has painstakingly revealed the following:
– One of Mam’s “survivors of sexual slavery,” Meas Ratha, told Marks she’d been coached to recite false, lurid narratives for visiting Western journalists and donors starting 1998.
– A one-eyed “survivor of sexual slavery” named Long Pross didn’t have her eye gouged out by a pimp—as Kristof reported with gorey relish–instead doctors said they removed her eye while extracting an ocular tumor.
– Mam didn’t grow up as a “savage” in the hills of Northern Cambodia and she wasn’t purchased by an abusive man she called “grandfather” (as alleged in her absurd international best-selling biography). Instead, Marks reported, she ran away from her humdrum life in a poor rural village after graduating from high school.
It seems hardly surprising that anyone would attempt to profit from Western donors and journalists eager for sob stories.
The larger and more depressing point about Mam’s resignation is that Marks’ reporting has been plastered on the front pages of the respectable Cambodia Daily for years. It has been echoed in this newspaper and blogged about throughout the region, but was virtually ignored until a zombie magazine republished it in the United States.
Six months ago, when pretty much anyone in Phnom Penh could have told you what the whole world now knows, I wrote a long email to the New York Times’s Public Editor filled with links to Marks’ stories.
I got no response.
When I emailed Kristof directly, his assistant passed on his hubris—“Nick isn’t going to give a comment because it seems the reports are unrelated to the reporting and writing he has done on Somaly Mam,” she wrote.
This is unforgivable.
Kristof didn’t just publish Long Pross’s unlikely bodice-ripper of a biography and refuse to retract the story after it was debunked, he blindly championed Mam while participating in a series of dumb stunts (e.g. live-tweeting a brothel raid in which he bought two little girls).
Off camera, Kristof brought Mam under the velvet rope and into the world of celebrity galas, US State Department dinners and assorted talk shows.
Relying mostly on pathos and PR, the two have enlisted a phalanx of poorly-informed celebrity spokespeople to convince Western donors to pour money onto a problem they hardly understand—throwing Phnom Penh’s ratio of child prostitutes to overpaid “rescue” workers into comically absurd proportions.
At home, Kristof joined the ranks of international mimbo Ashton Kutcher in a thoroughly hollow jihad against alternative weeklies for their willingness to publish advertisements for (gasp) prostitutes and massage parlors.
There, again, he was caught promulgating a false narrative that essentially accused my former employer of pimping a kidnapped 16 year old girl.
But the problem is much bigger than any one person’s story. It goes to the heart of how Kristof talks about the world and its problems.
Dina Haynes, a Professor of Law at New England Law, last year summed up the extent to which the entire issue has been muddled and dumbed down by Kristof, Kutcher, Mam and her ilk. “Multiple and conflicting viewpoints exist on many aspects of human trafficking,” she wrote in a paper titled The Celebritization of Human Trafficking.
“There are disagreements as to the extent of the problem, the precise definition of the problem, who is victimized, how best to support victims, and how to combat it. In addition, much statistical data on human trafficking is wildly inconsistent and lacks rigorous empirical support. When celebrities lend their confident voices and elevator pitches to this morass of disagreement and inconsistent data, they cannot help but sway an interested public.”
Instead of blaming the exploitative, low-wage sneaker sweatshops that make sex work a desirable alternative for many poor Cambodians, Mam and company assured the world that pedophilic bogeymen and cruel Fagins were to blame.
Moreover, they claimed that human trafficking was something that could be “eradicated” with “empowerment necklaces” and corporate sponsorships and Facebook and mere enthusiasm.
Hardcore feminists and advocates for the rights of the region’s many sex workers have been yelling and screaming about the deleterious effects of Mam and Kristof’s narrative for years—particularly their desire to “rescue” sex workers by teaching them to sew or do nails.
You could read virtually all of Marks’s Newsweek (and several cogent criticisms of Mam) online six months ago by merely googling S-O-M-A-L-Y M-A-M. Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham penned her mea culpa (Cambodian Sex Slave Story Revealed as a Lie) in October of last year.
None of that stopped rich actors in New York and Miami from donating over a million dollars to Mam’s foundation at gala events held that same month.
The tap didn’t really turn off until two weeks ago, right around the time that the New York Times’s Public Editor Margaret Sullivan finally acted on a tidal wave of Newsweek-inspired tweets and emailed Kristof a list of questions.
It took a full week before she got his amazing response—which cited the unknowable and fluid nature of facts in the developing world as one of the reasons for his long silence.
“Can’t imagine this excuse going over well with my editor,” tweeted James Welsh, an Al Jazeera stringer based in Phnom Penh.
In Kristof’s blogged response, entitled A Woman I Regarded as a Hero and New Doubts, you can almost see him squirm.
And squirm he should.
American journalists (who apparently only get their information from Newsweek) are hitting him hard.
No less than the Washington Post has called for him to stop frantically covering the world so he can “audit” his Cambodia reporting.
Kristof, for his part, is pretending to be “confused” by information that he’s surely been aware of for months if not years. Instead of admitting his role in Mam’s mass-deception, he tells us he’s “very sad” and assures readers he is “continuing to poke around.”
Where is Kristof poking? And more importantly, whom?
Before he predictably throws Mam under the bus, perhaps he should come poke Georges Blanchard, the head of Vietnam’s Alliance Anti-Traffic.
AAT found that even though the trafficking of women from Vietnam to Cambodia for the purpose of sex has slowed to a near trickle, Mam’s organization continues to present a distorted picture of trafficking to governments, donors and the general public for the purposes of raising funds.
When I first sat down with Blanchard, last year, he was living in the same small house down in District 3 that he’s occupied for years—just a few feet down from his nicotine-stained office.
The Gallic bear of a man has worked in the anti-trafficking field for over two decades, is fluent in Vietnamese and has sought little attention from international press or international celebrities.
He usually dresses in jeans and a t-shirt with some sort of motorcycle on it and manages to live well on less than $900 a month. Unlike Mam, Blanchard fully acknowledged that lots of women make a rational choice to be sex workers because it benefits them more than other available work. Instead of kicking in doors, AAT offers legal protections and plane tickets to Vietnamese women who say they’re stuck in sex work abroad and want to come home.
Though AAT continues to be listed on the Somaly Mam Foundation’s website as its Vietnamese partner, Blanchard says he’s received a pittance from its swollen coffers in recent years.
And he seemed ambivalent about accepting even that.
Blanchard said he believes Mam has engaged in the business of “selling the pity of the misery of the world.”
“And people are buying the pity,” he said with a laugh.
AAT found that even though the trafficking of women from Vietnam to Cambodia for the purpose of sex has slowed to a near trickle, Mam’s organization continues to present a distorted picture of trafficking to governments, donors and the general public for the purposes of raising funds.
Blanchard also told me that Mam stays in 5-star hotels and usually travels with a retinue that includes a contingent of armed bodyguards and “rescued” girls tasked with removing her shoes before she enters a room.
“It’s not the reality,” he said pointing at his head.
And that’s precisely the point. Given all the time Kristof has spent with Mam and her organization, he must know some or all of these things. If he doesn’t, then I think it’s time he start poking himself.

Here are some good articles that have a good summary of the Somaly Mam, and Nicholas Kristof controversy about them lying about Sex Trafficking:  petition to fire Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times

Swallowing the camel summary of Somaly Mam

Newsweek story of Somaly Mam

Laura Agustin on Somaly Mam

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Posted in Cambodia, charities, human trafficking, Long Pros, NGO, non-profit, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Uncategorized

Somaly Mam Foundation lying about sex trafficking – fake victims used

Somaly Mam, campaigner against sex trafficking, tells multiple lies and exploits fake ‘child prostitutes’ to raise money for the Somaly Mam Foundation.

By James Ricketson:

13 year old Long Pross, raped repeatedly in a Cambodian brothel, stabbed in the eye by the brothel owner, tortured with electric shock, pregnant twice by the age of 14, was rescued from a life of sex slavery by Somaly Mam.  A compelling story but not a true one.  Long Pros was never a sex slave, or prostitute and a doctor removed  a tumor from her eye that was not caused by a beating – she was never beaten.  She was never a prostitute.  It was all a lie to steal money from donors so that Somaly could live a rich celebrity lifestyle. 



Long Pros  – She had a tumor NOT a pimp beating

Long Pross did NOT lose her eye when stabbed by a brothel owner. It was removed by doctors as a result of a childhood tumor. This has been confirmed by Ms Pross, her parents and the doctors who performed the surgery.


If you saw Long Pross recounting her horrific experiences in a documentary made about the humanitarian work being done by Somaly Mam, might you feel inclined to make a donation to her Somaly Mam Foundation – committed as it is to stamping out sex slavery in Cambodia? Right?  -WRONG!!!!!

mam2Somaly Mam

If you saw a photo of Long Pross being hugged by Hilary Clinton, of Somaly snuggling up to Susan Sarandon and learned she was friends with Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan and other Hollywood celebrities, would the thought even cross your mind  that Long Pross’ story might be a fabrication?



Long Pross & Hilary Clintonmam3

In 1998 a popular weekly French TV show – Envoye Special – screened a documentary about Somaly Mam, relatively unknown at the time, and the work she was doing rescuing girls and women from the sex trade.


mam4Somaly Mam & Susan Sarandan

In the opening scene  Meas Ratha, a 14 year old Cambodian girl, recounts her experiences in a brothel. Somaly sits at her side as Meas Ratha tells of how she had been promised a job as a waitress in Phnom Penh, but wound up a captive in a brothel.


“I have seven brothers and sisters. My family is very poor. My father has disappeared. One year ago my mother fell seriously ill. I was completely distraught. I was very young and I didn’t know what to do.”


At this point Meas Ratha bursts into tears. She receives a comforting squeeze from Somaly Mam before she continues with her horrific tale of sexual abuse.


But what if neither Long Pross’ or Meas Ratha’s is true? Would you still feel inclined to donate money to the Somaly Mam Foundation?





Somaly with one of her hundreds of  celebrity friends


The French documentary in which these two girls appeared launched Somaly Mam’s career as an internationally famous campaigner against sex slavery. The book she wrote about here life, “The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine” became a best seller, she featured in a book written by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicolas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl Wudunn’s  “Half the Sky” and played a starring role in a 2012 PBS series by the same name – inspired by Krisof and Wudnunn’s book.


Somaly Mam & celebrity


In 2009 Somaly was nominated by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the world, she is feted by Hollywood celebrities, has become a celebrity herself and is an A-list fund raiser in the United States for her cause.


The credibility of Ms Mam’s account of her life and her work first came into serious doubt when she lied about the murder of 8 girls to a U.N. panel of international aid organizations and the media.

According to Somaly her organization, then known as AFESIP, coordinated a high profile police raid on a brothel in Phnom Penh in 2004. 83 women and girls were rescued and placed in the care of AFESIP. Ms Mam later told the UN panel that Cambodian police had entered AFESIP premises, taken 8 of the girls and murdered them. She was forced eventually to acknowledge that this story was a fabrication – that Cambodian police had neither kidnapped nor killed any girls at all.


Just as Somaly Mam played fast and loose with the truth regarding the murder of the eight girls (a whopper of a lie!), so too does the French documentary upon which her fame (and considerable fortune!) rests.


Long Pross did NOT lose her eye when stabbed by a brothel owner. It was removed by doctors as a result of a childhood tumor. This has been confirmed by Ms Pross, her parents and the doctors who performed the surgery.


Meas Ratha in 213

And 16 years after the Somaly Mam documentary was televised, Meas Ratha—now 32 years old and married—revealed in 2013 that the story she told about her life was fabricated and scripted for her by Somaly to help raise money for the work she was doing.


Somaly Mam’s lies do not end there. Somaly’s claim that her teenager daughter was kidnapped and suffered serious abuse at the hands of human traffickers was debunked by her former husband, Pierre Legros, who claimed that their daughter was not kidnapped but had run off with her boyfriend. According to Legross, Somaly’s  kidnapping story of was a means to “marketing for the Somaly Mam Foundation.”


Can any part of Somaly Mam’s story about her life – recounted in her 2007 autobiography, “The Road of Lost Innocence” – be relied upon to be true? Does it matter? Is it OK to telling whopping lies, as Ms Mam does, in order to raise money for (market) a good cause? And if it is OK for Somaly Mam to lie in the name of her good cause, it must surely be OK for other NGOs to lie in order to raise money for their good causes? Right?

Is it OK for everyone to lie to live a celebrity lifestyle?  


from Oprah Winfrey’s website Jan 2014


Whatever your position on this might be, a good lie, once told, tends to spread and become established fact – especially online, where those who pass on Chinese whispers do not want to let the facts, the truth, to stand in the way of a good and compelling story.


The following is to be found on Oprah Winfrey’s website in Jan 2014:

Children like Long Pross, kidnapped from her Cambodian village at age 13, are forced into a terrifying world of prostitution. She had not yet had sex or her first period. “The fear was overwhelming,” she says. “In a room they tied your hands, and outside there was a guard. If you resisted, they electrocuted you. Sometimes they electrocuted me twice a day if I argued too much…


Pross says she became pregnant twice. “The second time they waited until I was four months pregnant before they gave me the abortion,” she says.

Pross says when she asked for a few days of rest, her eye was gouged out with a piece of metal. When her eye became infected, the brothel considered her too mutilated to be worth anything and left her on the streets. An organization called Somaly Mam Foundation, founded by a former sex slave, stepped in to help Pross reclaim her life.

A compelling story but not a true one.

Does the conflation of fact and fiction here concern you? If, when you saw the photo of Long Pross and believed that she had been stabbed in the eye you felt inclined to make a contribution to the Somaly Mam Foundation, do you still feel so inclined?

Do  Somaly’s lies diminish the value of her organization’s work? Can we ever know, given her lies, whether her Foundation is effective or not in achieving its stated goals? Does the Somaly Mam Foundation deliver on its promises? Or is it primarily a money making and ego boosting exercise for Somaly – one that enables her to hang out with celebrities and live live a jet-setting life style?

Take a look at the graph below. Note that the Somaly Mam Foundation spends around $3.5 million on itself each year, whilst spending about $0.75 million (less that one quarter of the Foundation’s budget) on actually “eradicating sex trafficking and child prostitution in SE Asia.”


At the very least potential donors and sponsors (and all-too-gullible celebrities) should apply healthy skepticism before they fall for Somaly’s sales marketing pitch; before they fall for the marketing pitch of any NGO in the business of saving, rescuing, women and children in third world countries.

The sadder and the more compelling the story told (Long Pross and Meas Ratha’s, for instance), the cuter the kids smiling into the camera and asking for your help, the more inclined you will be to contribute to the flow of money into the NGO’s coffers.

Donor beware!

Before you sponsor a child or donate to any NGO ask as many questions as you can to help you separate fact from fiction; to distinguish between what an NGO says it does from what it actually does.  When it comes to Sex Trafficking victims,  lies are everywhere. 


Here are some good articles that have a good summary of the Somaly Mam, and Nicholas Kristof controversy about them lying about Sex Trafficking:  petition to fire Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times

Swallowing the camel summary of Somaly Mam

Newsweek story of Somaly Mam

Laura Agustin on Somaly Mam

Cambodia Daily newspaper


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Posted in Cambodia, charities, colorado, Denver, human trafficking, Long Pros, NGO, non-profit, philippines, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Uncategorized

Somaly Mam resigns because of lies she told about Sex Trafficking that did not exist

Somaly Mam, Long Pros lying about Sex Trafficking to get government grants and donations to live the celebrity life style.
Somaly Mam Become a millionaire by lying about sex with children.
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Somaly Mam, one of the world’s best-known activists against sex trafficking, resigned Wednesday from the foundation she created after an investigation uncovered discrepancies in the shocking personal history she used to raise millions of dollars in funding around the world.
somaly mam
Somaly Mam on right in picture above
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Posted in attorney general, Cambodia, charities, colorado, Denver, human trafficking, India, Long Pros, NGO, non-profit, philippines, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Thailand, Uncategorized

The truth about sex trafficking statistics research

Below is a recent article about Sex Trafficking from the Washington Post news paper:

Lies, damned lies and sex work statistics

By Maggie McNeill Updated: March 27, 2014
(Maggie McNeill is a retired call girl. She writes at her blog, The Honest Courtesan.)

Imagine a study of the alcohol industry which interviewed not a single brewer, wine expert, liquor store owner or drinker, but instead relied solely on the statements of ATF agents, dry-county politicians and members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Or how about a report on restaurants which treated the opinions of failed hot dog stand operators as the basis for broad statements about every kind of food business from convenience stores to food trucks to McDonald’s to five-star restaurants?

You’d probably surmise that this sort of research would be biased and one-sided to the point of unreliable. And you’d be correct. But change the topic to sex work, and such methods are not only the norm, they’re accepted uncritically by the media and the majority of those who the resulting studies. In fact, many of those who represent themselves as sex work researchers don’t even try to get good data. They simply present their opinions as fact, occasionally bolstered by pseudo-studies designed to produce pre-determined results. Well-known and easily-contacted sex workers are rarely consulted . There’s no peer review. And when sex workers are consulted at all, they’re recruited from jails and substance abuse programs, resulting in a sample skewed heavily toward the desperate, the disadvantaged and the marginalized.

This sort of statistical malpractice has always been typical of prostitution research. But the incentive to produce it has dramatically increased in the past decade, thanks to a media-fueled moral panic over sex trafficking. Sex-work prohibitionists have long seen trafficking and sex slavery as a useful Trojan horse.  In its 2010 “national action plan,” for example, the activist group Demand Abolition writes,“Framing the Campaign’s key target as sexual slavery might garner more support and less resistance, while framing the Campaign as combating prostitution may be less likely to mobilize similar levels of support and to stimulate stronger opposition.”

But as sex worker rights organizations have repeatedly pointed out (as have organizations like UNAIDSHuman Rights Watch, and Amnesty International), those who are truly interested in decreasing exploitation in the sex industry would be better off supporting decriminalization of prostitution.  New South Wales, Australia, decriminalized sex work in 1995, and a subsequent government-sponsored 2012 study found ” . . . no evidence of recent trafficking of female sex workers . . . in marked contrast to the 1990s when contacted women from Thailand were common in Sydney . . . ”

New Zealand legalized prostitution in 2003. A study by the New Zealand Ministry of Justice five years later found “no incidence of trafficking,” and sex worker advocates say the law has made it easier for sex workers to report abuse, and for law enforcement to make arrests for crimes against sex workers.  Some anti-prostitution activists have tried to claim that Germany’s liberal form of legalization has encouraged sex trafficking. But they actually cite coercion among illegal sex workers (for example, those who are too young to legally work at a German brothel) and claim that their exploitation had somehow been caused by the legal framework from which those women had been excluded.

Despite plenty of evidence of the harm caused by criminalization, there’s still a tremendous amount of money in representing it as the “cure” for a situation it actually exacerbates. In an interview last May, Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who led efforts to pass the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the anti-trafficking movement has become more about securing grants for research than protecting victims. “Now it’s just one big federal entitlement program,” he said, “and everybody is more worried about where they’re going to get their next grant.”

Most of the scary articles about sex trafficking are larded with inflated figures and phony statistics that don’t survive any serious analysis. For example, you will often read that the average sex worker enters the trade at 13, a mathematical impossibility which appears to have originated as a misrepresentation of the average age of first noncommercial sexual contact (which could include kissing, petting, etc.) reported by underage girls in one 1982 study as though it were the age they first reported selling sex. The actual average age at which they began prostitution was 16.  And though the number was already dubious when applied to underage prostitutes, it became wholly ludicrous when applied to all sex workers.

Because prostitution is illegal in most of the world, the most reliable data on the proportion of sex workers that are underage will come from places where the industry is legal and it can be studied openly, like New Zealand. And there, estimates put the figure at about 3.5%.

Another common claim is that there are 100,000 to 300,000 children locked in sex slavery in the U.S. (For just a few examples, see herehereherehere, and here. ) That number is a distortion of a figure from a 2001 study by Richard Estes and Neil Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania, which estimated that number of “children, adolescents and youth (up to 21) at risk of sexual exploitation.” (Emphasis added.)  “Sex trafficking” was the least prevalent form of “exploitation” in their definition. Other forms included stripping, consensual homosexual relations, and merely viewing porn.  Moreover, two of the so-called “risk factors” were access to a car and proximity to the Canadian or Mexican border.  In a 2011 interview, Estes himself estimated the number of legal minors actually abducted into “sex slavery” was ” very small . . . {w}e’re talking about a few hundred people.”

Yet the myth persists. The Dallas Morning News recently took the figure to new levels of preposterousness, claiming in an editorial last November that, “In Houston alone, about 300,000 sex trafficking cases are prosecuted each year.” As defense attorney Mark Bennett pointed out on his blog, the actual figure was two. Not 200,000. Just two.  The paper did print a correction, though the correction simply deleted the original 300,000 figure from the editorial. The paper still didn’t bother to mention the actual number, perhaps it didn’t support the alarmism in the rest of the editorial.

And the distortions go on.

  • A mistaken, offhand guess by a panelist at symposium that sex trafficking might be the third most profitable underground industry gets repurposed as proven fact. Later, it’s changed to the second most profitable black market, then the first.
  • A highly flawed, anecdote-ridden feature in the New York Times Magazine that heavily relied on activist sources is repeated as gospel.
  • A 2004 study of street sex workers who had been murdered found that the average age of the victims was 34. This has since been cited as the average life expectancy of all street workers, or of all sex workers. That would be analogous to saying that because the average soldier who is killed in battle is 21 years old,  the average man who joins the military dies at 21. (Newsweek made this mistake in its sensationalist 2011 article “The John Next Door,” and never bothered to correct it.)

One of the more comical incidents occurred in 2011, when an activist group called the Women’s Funding Network put out a study alleging that ads for underage sex trafficking on websites like Craigslist and had “risen exponentially in three diverse states.” The claim was picked up by media outlets across the country, including USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Detroit Free Press. The Village Voice, which owns, took a look at the methodology, a term that flatters what the study’s authors actually did. They merely asked a small sample group of people to guess the age of women pictured in ads for escort and erotic massage services. They then just assumed that the guesses were correct, and extrapolated the percentage of “underage” women in their sample  set of photos were indicative of online sex ads in general.

Not surprisingly, none authors of the “study” were credentialed academics. Still, it inspired not only a wave of media coverage, but outrage from state attorneys general and members of Congress, and promises for new laws. The activists knew exactly what they were doing. As the director of the group that conducted the study told the Voice, “We pitch {a study} the way we think you’re going to read it and pick up on it. If we give it to you with all the words and the stuff that is actually accurate — I mean, I’ve tried to do that with our PR firm, and they say, ‘They won’t read that much.’”

There have been two more highly-publicized examples of this phenomenon in just the past few weeks.  The first was a study funded by Cindy McCain and led by Dr. Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, an anti-prostitution crusader responsible for a controversial “diversion” program in Phoenix, Arizona. It claimed to have “proven” an increase of “sex trafficking” in northern New Jersey near the time of the Super Bowl, and was apparently conducted to counter the evidence that this annual story — that Super Bowls bring sex slaves” — is largely hype. The researchers claim to have subjected sex workers’ ads from to a “trafficking matrix.” The report doesn’t offer much explanation about how this “matrix” was designed and tested, but the text in the report indicates that among its dubious premises are the claims that tattoos are a sign of trafficking, and the dubious claim that the term kitty (a euphemism for female genitalia) is code for “underage.”  Despite the absence of methodological design data and the obvious lack of experimental controls, the authors nonetheless boldly assert that 83.7% of the ads “showed signs of trafficking.”

The other example is a study from the Urban Institute that was widely touted in the media last week (including here at The Washington Post). The researchers made bold statements about the “U.S. sex economy” based on interviews with law enforcement personnel, 73 men convicted as “pimps,” and only 36 incarcerated street workers. As the sex worker activist Melissa Gira Grant observed, the average sex worker activist follows more sex workers on Twitter than these researchers managed to find for a supposedly “landmark” study.

Furthermore, the report’s bias is clear from the skewed proportion of its interviewees: Street workers represent less than 15 percent of the trade, but were 100 percent of the sex workers interviewed for the study. Moreover, fewer than half of street workers have pimps, and about half of the pimps are actually the employees of the women they manage, not the other way around. Yet the researchers interviewed twice as many pimps as sex workers, thus inflating their perceived importance remarkably.

To the extent that it exists, coerced sex work is of course abominable, and it should be prosecuted. But the media needs to be far more skeptical of the claims of anti-sex worker activists, including those that advocate from government perches. Uncritically repeating exaggerated claims and fabricated data may seem innocuous — after all, what harm could there be in drawing more attention to the issue?  But when all sex work is illegal, consensual, of-age sex workers are far more reluctant to report coercion, abusive pimps, and underage prostitutes for fear of being arrested themselves. This makes actual sex trafficking more difficult to discover.

These moral panic proclamations and exaggerated or fabricated statistics are coming from activists who want stricter laws to criminalize prostitution, thus pushing it further underground. Spreading their message will only make actual sex slavery more difficult to detect.

Article link:

Here is another good article about sex trafficking from the Washington Post:


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Posted in colorado, Denver, human trafficking, non-profit, prostitution, research, sex slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, statistics, Uncategorized

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