22 May 2014

Charisma and Cambodia

In an echo of the debunking of Greg Mortenson we are seeing another round of questions about exaggeration (or outright fabrication) by activist Somaly Mam and associates.

Newsweek has published a sobering piece on Ms Mam, author of The Road Of Lost Innocence: The True Story Of A Cambodian Heroine, building on claims that appeared in 2012 and 2013.

The article claims Mam has been creative in statements regarding her supposed past as a victim of abuse and has encouraged others affiliated with her organisation to engage in fabrication. Two women for example who have appeared publicly on the organisation's behalf to speak about their past as child sex slaves were reportedly never sex workers. Much of Mam's personal history - recounted in the book, video, interviews and speeches - seems at best to have been enhanced and in places to have been wholly invented.

Charisma, a worthy cause and a solution that engages the audience - in this instance gung ho rescue missions rather than less exciting job creation - goes a long way.