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
One comment on “Somaly Mam Foundation lying about sex trafficking – fake victims used
  1. BAILH says:

    THIS IS SO UNTRUE! HAVE YOU A. READ HER STORY OR TALKED TO HER?! I doubt you truly have done either. In her story she says “I do not want to be a hero, for it isolates me from the rest of the world.”

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