Do you believe in Somali Mam?

Every story has at least three or four sides, with varying accounts and versions.

As Somaly Mam tries to rebuild her foundations in Cambodia, it’s time to listen to another voice, that of her ex-husband, Pierre Legros. She was a co-founder of Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP) in 1996 and a former director of AFESIP International.

Mam and Legros were together for 15 years, 13 of them legally married. According to Legros, “I am the only person on earth who really knows most of the story. I want to tell the truth and stop the lies. I also want to prevent him from using Nieng, my adopted daughter, as part of his campaign.” to make a comeback.”

The actual situation

Pierre Legros leans back in his chair at a restaurant in Phnom Penh. “First of all, I am not against Somaly. We had good years together, we have two biological children and an adopted daughter. Unfortunately, I cannot see my 12-year-old son, Nicolai. We have parted ways.” 2004, when I was fired from AFESIP, but I didn’t get a divorce until 2006. Then, in 2007, he created The Somaly Mam Foundation in the United States.”

He shrugs, “So what if she told some lies. Everyone in Asia lies and it’s part of social behavior.”

“Take her name for example. I knew her as Viriya or Aya, her mother called her Someny and now she is Somaly Mam. Who cares?”

“I don’t want to destroy her reputation as she did a good job and I’m proud of her. But people also need to know that there are allegations from Spain that she took a lot of donations meant for the foundation and ended up for her personal use.

“The reason I emphasize this is because AFESIP was a group of local NGOs that I established in Europe and Asia. AFESIP Spain became one of the most efficient in terms of activities in Madrid, protesting against trafficking, and in throughout Spain, to raise awareness. AFESIP Spain then facilitated fundraising with the foundation and the Spanish government, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They investigated and found some issues as to whether Somaly committed financial fraud.”

“His salary in 2011 was $125,642, which is a fortune in Cambodia.”

“The for sale in the village sign is to convince people that she is poor. It is not true. Then they will donate more money. The problem is that people in the United States believe everything they are told and do not do what they are told. make”. checking correctly. That may change now that financial fraud questions about the former AFESIP office in Madrid have been raised in Spain.”

The beginnings of the icon

“Yes, Somaly was a prostitute when I met her. Then we fell in love and that all changed.”

“UNICEF started donating money and we set up a center to help girls and women who had been trafficked into the sex industry. We all have to dream. I considered it my destiny to help other people. It is what I was, and I remain – committed.” to do”.

“I was the director and organizer behind the operation, the person in the shadows, really. I knew the direction we had to go. So I took risks and encouraged Somaly to develop her freedom and escape her dictates.” cultural. I know that if you give a woman what she needs you will create a superwoman. And that’s what happened: she became an icon. Because, in reality, she is also very smart, more than me. “

“Somaly was the face of the operation, the spokesperson, the marketing machine. It was her personality that was at work. She told her story, and other stories of trafficked girls and women, so well that money started flowing into AFESIP.”

Legros went on to say that after she appeared on television many times and began to gain international recognition, he suggested that she should write a book. The book was first published in France in 2005, before it established its foundation in the United States in 2007. The Road of Lost Innocence became an instant bestseller when it was translated into English.

“I didn’t tell him what to write. It was his story, not mine. Interesting, though, that the French and English versions don’t resemble each other.”

“After the book, she was invited everywhere and met everyone who counted. Her contact list goes from Oprah, to Hilary Clinton, to the Queen of Spain and politicians from all over the world. Of course I encouraged her and I supported. She was my wife and the mother of my children. We were already separated, but I pressured her to accept the invitation to open the Special Olympics in 2005.”

Some questions about personality disorder

Starting life in a small town in Kompong Cham province where life was subsistence at best, and ending up as an international celebrity is not a journey without demands and problems.

Legros and an American psychologist who volunteered at AFESIP theorized that as Mam began to mix and mingle more and more with the rich and famous, she progressed toward developing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Signs of NPD include a grandiose sense of self-importance and a constant demand for attention and admiration. Other traits include exploitation of others and a complete lack of empathy.

Legros and the psychologist now suggest that Mam exhibits the full signs of NPD. In the saint-sinner debate, she is the first person to raise the issue of borderline personality problems.

“Somaly is not happy. She is a depressed woman.” Other accounts from center staff verify that she has a temper and can be explosive with minor incidents.

“The only times I came out publicly to question the lies he told was when he said that eight girls had been killed at the center. The second time was when he alleged that our adopted daughter had been gang raped. In these cases I had to put things down. clear.”

Whats Next?

Legros keeps a low profile. “I want this article to be published outside of Cambodia, because that is where most of Somaly’s supporters are. I think they need to know the truth. Here in Phnom Penh it would be too dangerous. She is very well connected and knows many high officials “. classifying people in the government, the police, and the military.

“When we broke up in 2004, she moved her bodyguard into the bedroom. He had a gun and a license to kill. I know I can disappear tomorrow, this is the Kingdom.”

Legros is currently working in Phnom Penh.

He smiles: “Eventually, I want to retire on a boat and not have too much contact with other humans. But before I do, I want to tell the true story of Somaly Mam and how she became an icon. I have a duty to do it without gray areas or lies”.

“For me, Somaly is an imposture. But in a corrupt system full of similar people, it is not a surprise.”

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