Somaly Man

One of my goals is to highlight the profiles of Asian Buddhists, especially those whose religious identity may not be as prominent as their other accomplishments. One incredible personality is Somaly Mam. Tharum Bun has a very kind post about her on his blog Musings from Cambodia, which I’ve included below.

She’s not a prominent politician but an anti-slavery activist and survivor fighting for sex trafficked victims.

The 39 or 40-year-old Somaly Mam (she’s not sure about her birthday) stands out from the crowd for fighting tirelessly against human sex trafficking and helping the victims. In the poverty-ridden Cambodia of 14 million people she is not from an elite family. In fact Somaly was once a former sex worker herself; as a child she was sold into prostitution. But she rose up anyway to run a foundation, which is named after her, to help women and children to escape from slavery.

On the microblogging site Twitter she’s got 315,226 followers (126 tweets posted). In comparison there are only 59,154 people (1,355 tweets posted) who follow Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra via Twitter (the figure was based on the date and time of posting this).

Somaly, also a human rights advocate, uses internet tools prolifically to spread news of her work to as many people as possible. Last week, she posted a tweet from her mobile phone about her speech ontrafficking that she was giving to more 700 students at a university in Phnom Penh.

In April last year Somaly Mam was named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential figures. Her profile was written by non other than Angelina Jolie, goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, and she’s listed alongside the likes of British Prime Minster Gordon Brown and US President Barack Obama. You’ll find Somaly in the Heroes & Iconssection in between Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Thanks in part to the mainstream media, she can claim to be one of the most influential Cambodian figures not only in the Twitter universe but alive today.

Check out her book, The Road of Lost Innocence. Photo from Asian Correspondent.