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Somaly Mam & Pierre Legros

Cambodia , Class of 2005

Somaly Mam & Pierre Legros

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A French NGO worker, Pierre Legros and a trafficking victim, Somaly Mam, founded one of the most influential sex trafficking NGOs in Asia.

Pierre Legros and Somaly Mam met in the early 1990s in Phnom Penh. Mr. Legros had come to Cambodia first with Médecins Sans Frontières, as a biotechnologist. He continued to work with a variety of medical and scientific organizations in Phnom Penh, and met Ms. Somaly Mam in 1991. At the time, she had been trafficked and was trapped in the sex trade. Legros helped her to escape, and they moved together to France. They moved back to Cambodia in 1994. It was in 1996 that they founded, along with another member, AFESIP, which is an acronym for the French name that, when translated, means Acting for Women in Distressing Situations.

Focusing on rescue and aftercare, AFESIP began to grow and spread. By the early 2000s, they have become a well-recognized organization, and had spread to the surrounding countries, including Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. By 2005, they had helped over 3,000 girls. AFESIP has shelters, and provides rehabilitation, job training, counseling, and other necessary services. They coordinated with the Phnom Penh Police for a 2004 raid on a notorious brothel. 83 women and girls were rescued in that raid. Although Pierre Legros resigned from AFESIP in 2004, partly because of marriage troubles between the couple, they were jointly given the Trafficking in Persons Report in 2005 in recognition of the incredible efforts of their organization to combat human trafficking in Cambodia and Southeast Asia as a whole.

After 2005, both Mam and Legros have continued to work in the Anti-trafficking field in Cambodia. Legros founded another organization, and has acted as a consultant to several others. Mam, in 2007, created the Somaly Mam Foundation. The Foundation works to raise money for anti-trafficking efforts and organizations in Cambodia, and has, over the years, been spotlighted by various celebrities and news organizations. While the Somaly Mam Foundation ceased operations in October, 2014, AFESIP continues to work in Cambodia and the surrounding region on issues of sex trafficking.

In the 2014 TIP Report, Cambodia was listed as a source, transit, and destination country, and placed on a Tier 2 watch list. Sex trafficking is common, in and out of the country, as is trafficking for the purposes of forced labor or domestic servitude. The country making efforts to comply with the minimum requirements of the TVPA, but has not yet done so.

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