Kristof and the NT Times are bearing the brunt of the media backlash regarding the Somaly Mam scandal. Not much more can be said about recent real actions regarding Somaly Mam.
The mass of lies has been exposed, the hardest part would be finding any truth. There’s a great block of missing time in her book “The Road of Innocence Lost”, a block of time in which some of Cambodia’s longtime expat’s tell of a very willing vivacious sex-worker, parading around the freelancer circuit with great enthusiasm. Much like she seems to have enjoyed the last decade or so, only the pay grade was a bit lower.
Mam was heralded by royalty, celebrities, politicians, governmental and NGO’s long before Nicholas Kristof joined in the fray. Though his timing was perfect to ride her wave to stardom, no doubt getting some of his own he seems to have fallen short in some areas. While Kristof and the New York Times are definitely paying the price for their slack fact checking, one can’t help but feel a bit of empathy for them, as they weren’t the first to be taken for a ride by a SE Asian prostitute.
It’s well know that “working girls” in South East Asia have been known depend on grandiose fabrications and lies to sustain their lifestyles. After Mam spilt up with her husband, Pierre, and fell into the arms of her Khmer driver, she may have lost her guiding hand in art of negotiating the slippery slope of sensationalist fundraising and hobnobbing. No doubt this was a daunting experience but a fairytale come true for someone from her background if you believe her story. Maybe this pressure is what caused the many varied timelines of her life and the alleged abduction of her child, of which all have been verified as being untrue.
There has already been scuttlebutt regarding the possible fallout of the Somaly Mam debacle. Of the dozens of NGO’s whose stated mission it is to fight human-trafficking in Cambodia some are admittedly on edge. Considering that only a handful of human-trafficking arrests are made each year in Cambodia compared to the tens of millions of dollars in donations, their tension is rightly justified. A long hard look is needed at ways to fix the problem. And millions of dollars spent on lavish homes, salaries, cars, and private schools for NGO workers kids will not fix the problem.
While human-trafficking does exist, it is often ignored or tolerated. Families, friends, and neighbors of victims alike are often willing to turn a blind eye. Apathy and stupidity, not ignorance, are the real enemies. Maybe it’s time for education. Convincing Cambodians that not only is it not OK to sell your own children, it’s not OK to watch your neighbor do it either.
In a statement that was recently released by the Somaly Mam Foundation they said “We have touched the lives of over 100,000 women and girls”. 100,000, really? Many for the good but some for the worse. By the very definition of human-trafficking, Mam may be guilty of the crime. Rescuing (abducting?) girls from brothels then confining them to reeducation centers, shades of the Khmer Rogue. This has been reported many times in the media with the girls escaping on one occasion only to return to work in a high end massage parlour where they were free to come and go.
Kristof’s purchasing of two girls did little but to add profits to the brothel, not to mention the parents of the girls, as one of the girls returned almost immediately to the brothel. He had receipt for them, did get a refund? As he admits this in one of his articles why was he not arrested for human trafficking back in the USA? Make no mistake, the Somaly Mam Foundation is its namesake, and her celebrity. They have a long way to go before they reinvent themselves, maybe they should start with a change of name?