Who is Somaly Mam?

Pierre Legros, former husband of Cambodian activist Somaly Mam who is known globally for her fight against sex trafficking, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh on May 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pierre Legros, former husband of Cambodian activist Somaly Mam who is known globally for her fight against sex trafficking, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh on May 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Somaly Mam at the Nomura Asia Equity Forum 2012. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Somaly Mam at the Nomura Asia Equity Forum 2012. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Somaly Mam, a high-profile anti-sex slavery activist . -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Somaly Mam, a high-profile anti-sex slavery activist . -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Somaly Mam, a high-profile anti-sex slavery activist . -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Somaly Mam, a high-profile anti-sex slavery activist . -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A photograph made available on May 29, 2014 shows Somaly Mam (left) during a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb 20, 2008. -- PHOTO: EPA
A photograph made available on May 29, 2014 shows Somaly Mam (left) during a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb 20, 2008. -- PHOTO: EPA

The high-profile anti-sex slavery activist quit her eponymous foundation on Wednesday. Her resignation came after a May 21 Newsweek cover story questioned the veracity of her life story and a two-month investigation by a law firm hired by the foundation.

Here are five things about Somaly Mam.

1. The Cambodian co-founded, with her then-husband Frenchman Pierre Lagros, Acting For Women In Distressing Situations (Afesip, a French acronym) in Cambodia in 1996. The non-governmental organisation is dedicated to rescuing women and girls who have been sexually exploited.

2. Her work with Afesip won her the first inklings of international attention. In 1998, she received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, the first of many awards to come her way. The Award helped raise her profile, and Afesip expanded to other countries - France, Laos, Switzerland, Thailand and Vietnam.

3. Since then, Mam has been named one of Time's 100 most influential people in 2009 (the tribute to her was written by Angelina Jolie) and has been interviewed for magazines as varied as Glamour and Fortune as well as by Oprah Winfrey. She co-founded the Somaly Mam Foundation in 2007 to help raise money to fund Afesip's activities. The Foundation is well connected - Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon are on its global advisory board.

4. In 2005, Mam published her autobiography, The Road Of Lost Innocence, in France. In it, she recounted her harrowing life history: She was beaten by her "grandfather" who later sold her virginity to a rich Chinese merchant and then sold her to a brothel until she escaped in her early 20s.

5. The "facts" of Mam's life have been questioned by journalist Simon Marks, who wrote the May 21 Newsweek story after a series of investigative pieces published in The Cambodia Daily newspaper from 2012. He interviewed Mam's childhood friends, teachers and officials in the village of Thloc Chhroy where she grew up. His cover story for Newsweek also documents other inconsistencies in her life story as told to various media and in public speeches.