Every story has at least three or four sides, with different versions and stories.
As Somaly Mam tries to rebuild her foundation in Cambodia, it’s time to hear another voice, that of her ex-husband, Pierre Legros. He 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 do a comeback. “
The actual situation
Pierre Legros sits in his chair in a restaurant in Phnom Penh. “First of all, I am not against Somaly. We had a good few years together, we have two biological children and an adopted daughter. Unfortunately, I cannot see my 12-year-old son, Nicolai. We separated in 2004, when I was fired from the AFESIP, but I didn’t get divorced until 2006. Then he created the Somaly Mam Foundation in the United States in 2007. “
He shrugs, “What if she told some lies? Everyone in Asia lies and it is 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 am proud of her. But people should also know that there are accusations from Spain that she received many donations destined 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 set up throughout Europe and Asia. AFESIP Spain became one of the most efficient in terms of activities in Madrid, protesting against trafficking, and throughout Spain, for awareness. Then AFESIP Spain facilitated fundraising with the foundation and the Spanish government, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They investigated and found some problems about whether Somaly committed financial fraud. “
“His salary in 2011 was $ 125,642, which is a fortune in Cambodia.”
“The For Sale sign in the village 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 that they are told. Properly checking. That may change now that financial fraud issues have been raised about the former AFESIP office in Madrid in Spain. “
The beginnings of the icon
“Yes, Somaly was a prostitute when I met her. Then we fell in love and all that changed.”
“UNICEF started donating money and we established a center to help girls and women who had been trafficked in the sex industry. We all have to dream. I considered my destiny to help other people. It is what it was, and I am still. – committed to doing. “
“I was the director and organizer behind the operation, the person in the shadows, actually. I knew the direction we had to go. So I took risks and encouraged Somaly to develop her freedom and escape from dictates. I know that if you give a woman what she needs you will create a superwoman. And that is what happened: she became an icon. Because, actually, she is also very intelligent, more than me. “
“Somaly was the face of the operation, the spokesperson, the marketing machine. It was her personality that was at stake. She told her story, and other tales of trafficked girls and women so well that money started to flow. towards AFESIP. “
Legros went on to comment that after she appeared on television many times and began to gain international recognition, he suggested that she write a book. The book was first published in France in 2005, before she established her foundation in the United States in 2007. The Path of Lost Innocence instantly became a best-seller when it was translated into English.
“I didn’t tell him what to write. It was his story, not mine. It’s interesting, though, that the French and English versions are nothing alike.”
“After the book, she was invited everywhere and met everyone who counted. The list of her contacts goes from Oprah, to Hilary Clinton, the Queen of Spain and politicians from around the world. Of course I encouraged and supported her . 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 Disorders
Starting your life in a small town in the Kompong Cham province where life was subsistence at best and ending up as an international celebrity is not a journey without its 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 the development of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Indications 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 debate between saint and sinner, he is the first person to ask the question about borderline questions of personality.
“Somaly is not happy. She is a depressed woman.” Other reports from the center’s staff verify that she has a bad temper and can be explosive in small incidents.
“The only times I have come out publicly to challenge the lies he told was when he said that eight girls in the center had been murdered. The second time was when he alleged that our adopted daughter had been gang-raped. In these cases I had to leave things clear. “
Legros keeps a low profile. “I want this article to be published outside of Cambodia, because that is where most of the Somaly supporters are. I think they need to know the truth. Here in Phnom Penh it would be too dangerous. It is very well connected and knows many people of rank. in the government, the police and the army. “
“When we parted ways 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 so without gray areas or lies. “.
“To me, Somaly is a sham. But within a corrupt system full of similar people, it is not a surprise.”