Disgraced activist staging a comeback

Disgraced activist staging a comeback
Ms Somaly Mam stands by her life story, despite a Newsweek report that said significant details were made up.

Ms Somaly Mam, the high-profile anti-sex slavery activist whose dramatic life story was reported to be fabricated, is now trying to claw back some credibility and return to working for sex trafficking victims.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, the first Asian media she spoke to after an explosive Newsweek magazine report in May suggested that she had lied about her past, the Cambodian said: "I don't care about my reputation.

" I will never give up, I will do everything for my girls." She also said she stands by her life story.

"I am not perfect," Ms Mam, who wowed Hollywood, the White House and Manhattan with her story and work, told The Straits Times over the phone on Monday.

However, she insisted: "I stand by my story. Forever, until the day I die."

The Newsweek cover story was written by journalist Simon Marks, who had been investigating Ms Mam for his previous employer, The Cambodia Daily. During his investigations, he found significant details of her life had been fabricated, the report said.

They included an account of how Ms Somana, one of the women whom Ms Mam had allegedly rescued from sex trafficking, had suffered at the hands of a brothel owner.

But Ms Somana's medical records which Newsweek investigated suggested that she was blind in one eye not from an injury inflicted by a brothel owner as claimed, but from surgery for a tumour, the magazine report said.

Soon after the Newsweek report, The Holy Saint (and Sinner) of Sex Trafficking, appeared, Ms Mam was forced to step down from the United States-based Somaly Mam Foundation.

Shocked by the revelations, donors dropped her like a hot brick. Funds dried up, leaving her Cambodian non-governmental organisation Afesip on the verge of closing down and the future of 170 rescued young women under its care in jeopardy, she said.

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