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SMF defends funding cuts to partner NGO

SMF defends funding cuts to partner NGO

The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) has said its decision to cut off funding to Agir Pour Les Femmes en Situation Precaire (Afesip) came partly because of the continued involvement of embattled anti-human-trafficking activist Somaly Mam in the local NGO.

In a statement on Monday, the SMF states the decision to terminate funds to its local affiliate Afesip last month was also shaped by a “deep reduction” in 2014 donations.

“In addition, AFESIP’s leadership has indicated that SMF’s former President continues to act in a decision-making capacity, but has not been specific or transparent about her actual role in expending funds or directing AFESIP’s operations,” the statement reads.

But Uong Chheng, an Afesip program director, denied Mam was still involved and said that since Monday, 39 staff had been fired due to the funding cut.

“Ms Somaly Mam has nothing to do with Afesip. Why would [SMF] decide to cut funding without informing us?” Chheng said.

In a statement on Friday, 20 employees of Afesip condemned the funding cuts.

Afesip Cambodia was founded in 1996 by Mam, who resigned from SMF in May after Newsweek published an article alleging key parts of her story had been fabricated.

An absence of any “formal board structure or accountability” at Afesip is also highlighted by the foundation as “problematic”. Key areas requiring improvement at Afesip that were outlined in a 2013 memo issued in May were never addressed, which also influenced the decision, the foundation adds.

“We have only recently learned that AFESIP has made no significant progress on these requirements, and as a result we have had to reassess our relationship,” the statement reads. It adds that the foundation will continue to offer interim financial assistance to ensure the needs of those it helps are met during this period.

The SMF informed the organisation on June 12 that all funding was to be terminated immediately, according to a statement posted to Afesip’s website last Wednesday by executive director Chhoeurth Sao, who could not be reached yesterday despite repeated calls.

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