The New York Times’ ‘ace’ journalist #Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof is having some serious personal issues having to deal with the resignation of Somaly Mam from the Somaly Mam Foundation in Cambodia.
Somaly Mam had to resign after she had been caught out in some whopping lies clearly aimed at generating public sympathy and cash.
Victims of alleged child sexual abuse had invented stories it seems, on Somaly’s cue.
Kristof had been championing Somaly’s cause alongside some Hollywood glitterati including Susan Sarandon. Somaly was attractive, well-spoken and a ‘victim’ herself – although her own story has since also seriously come apart.
Generally a small journalist on a small publication in Cambodia would have trouble pitting himself against people of Kristof’s status. Simon Marks of the Cambodia Daily however repeatedly raised the issues of Somaly Mam and her exaggerations and lies – for years!
But Somaly herself had become an establishment figure in the United States attending glittering events in New York and Los Angeles and doing the rounds of the chat shows including Oprah, and attending events with Kristof.
Child sexual abuse and trafficking has been a serious issue in Cambodia and still is. But it is also to a certain extent an industry. There are so many ngo’s watching for foreign paedophiles in Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville, and raising cash on the international market that I guess if I went there alone with my kids, who are half Thai, I would be photographed a dozen times – a hundred times if I dressed them up in rags plus a couple of hours of jail time explaining.
All these ‘charities’ seek funds on the internet. One disadvantage of the internet is that there are fewer and fewer foreign correspondents on the ground as newspaper foreign editors more and more collate news from several sources and put them together at head office.
One advantage however is that local journalists like Simon Marks on the Cambodia Daily can be heard. Marks has been pounding away for years on this story. Somaly should have resigned a long time ago.
But it was only when Newsweek published Simon’s last major story that she actually did.
That actually says a lot about U.S. society. Many people knew about it but thought it would go away.
So now back to Kristof. Well he has done himself considerable damage in the view of many by his attitude to the whole exposé.
This is what he has to say:
|Somaly and Kristof|
“I don’t know what to think. Somaly stands by her story. But she has resigned which gives credence to the allegations. I am wary because the source of some of the allegations is her husband with whom she is feuding and who previously confirmed her account.
On some of the allegations such as a daughter who was trafficked there was evidence backing her up.
Fundamentally serious doubts have been raised about her and her colleagues whom I wrote about in 2009 but I am reluctant to be an arbiter of her back story when I just don’t know what is true and what is false among the conflicting statements. I am continuing to poke around.”
Kristof goes on to state, dare I say it, rather predictably:
‘So whatever the situation. It’s very sad. One risk is that girls fleeing Cambodian brothels will no longer get help. Another is that the debate about Somaly’s back story will overtake the imperative of ending the trafficking of young teenagers into brothels. Let’s remember this is about more than one woman.”
Comment: Well Mr. Kristof. For a start Simon Marks’ investigation was based on many sources not least the supposed victims themselves. And what is this about the ‘back story’? Don’t you mean, er, the story? – the story which you adopted hook, line and sinker and then pedalled.
|A Flying Sporran Comment|
Girls fleeing Cambodian brothels will no longer get help as a result? Who are you kidding here? – Hopefully only a small section of the readership of the New York Times will fall for that.
There is a constant battle to stop child prostitution in Cambodia – the Somaly Mam Foundation has only been a tiny part of it – albeit maybe one of the richest.
There are umpteen US funded organisations doing ‘charitable work’ all over south east Asia particularly in Cambodia, and on the Thai Burma border.
Many have glossy websites. But not all are kosher. Some invent stories; they even invent rescues! – Somaly Mam – is not alone in that regard. By all means poke around – Pity you did not do that years ago!
Buy yourself an empowerment bracelet and next time you’re sipping wine on 8th Avenue bear in mind that often surprises from South East Asia can come in beautiful packages. And secondly, Nick, the words to use when using Google are ‘Somaly’ and ‘Mam’ – you could add ‘Simon’ and ‘Marks’ for a short-cut to the more revealing stuff…er or is that the ‘backstory’. But you knew didn’t you Nick?
Lyrics for the above remix from Bad Rehab:
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh I was in bad rehab Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh Kept in a bad rehab Ra Ra-ah-ah-ah Soma Ly ah
You think I’m ugly You think I’m disease You took everything You knew I’m not free
I want to leave Leave leave leave I want to leave I hate your drama The touch of your hand
They said they rescue, they said they save me I want to leave Leave leave leave I want to leave
Remember you promised me Gonna give sewing machine You such a lie Yours bad rehab
Backstory – Oxford English Dictionary
A history or background created for a fictional character in a film or television programme:a brief prologue detailing our hero’s backstoryBackstory – Webster’s English (American) Dictionary narrative providing a history or background context, especially for a character or situation in a literary work, film, or dramatic series.
CAMBODIAN CHARITY EXPOSED