800+ From Mekong Communities Attend EJN Film Screenings on Natural Resource Governance

Five speakers sit in front of a crowd in theater seats with a movie screen that says "Mekong Cotton" displayed behind them
800+ From Mekong Communities Attend EJN Film Screenings on Natural Resource Governance

As part of the Our Mekong, Our Say (OMOS) project, funded by USAID Mekong For the Future, Internews’ Earth Journalism’s Network partnered with FilmAid to train 25 journalists—providing grants and mentorship to 10 of those with the best video story pitches.

The aim of the project is to increase the transparency of natural resource policy and governance in the Lower Mekong countries—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Ecosystems in this region are overburdened by hundreds of hydropower projects, deforestation, unsustainable extraction of sand and much more.

From November to December last year, many of the journalists planned screening events to showcase their films as part of the project’s aim to empower communities through storytelling. In all, 30 screenings were organized in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, with more than 800 attendees.

Their documentary films, which addressed the challenges of natural resource management and ordinary people who have made a difference through their conservation efforts, were viewed in a range of different settings, from a city cinema to a rural pagoda to village houses and schools.

“It was exciting to see local community members watching the film and enjoying it,” said Choulay Mech, a fellow from Cambodia. “The screening motivates them to continue their conservation activities and keep their members updated on environmental challenges.”

Choulay organized her screening at Wat Sasan Rainsy in Cambodia’s northeastern Stung Treng Province, where she spent a month filming the youth and women leaders fighting illegal fishing.

A crowd watches a large movie screen outdoors with trees in the background
OMOS fellow Choulay Mech organized a screening at Wat Sasan Rainsy in Cambodia’s northeastern Stung Treng Province. About 150 people attended / Credit: Choulay Mech.

Despite the escalating civil war, a Myanmar fellow Maran Htoi Aung managed to host two screening events at local academic institutions in Kachin State in the northern part of the country. The events were attended by around 100 people, many of whom were law students.

Maran’s film underlines the interlinkages between environmental problems and conflict. His home state, also a war zone, has been devastated by illegal gold mining that wiped out the homes and farms of ethnic minorities. His film shows how weakened rule of law after the 2021 military coup has played a big part in the irresponsible extraction of natural resources.

“This is my first time [making a documentary film]. I want to do more because it can empower people. The community members appearing in the film felt inclusion, having had a chance to express their feelings,” said Maran.

“The audience also showed strong interest in the film. After the screening events, they requested [their school] to teach them about the intersection between laws and natural resources,” he added.

Other screening events were also organized in a village on the coast of Myanmar, where an OMOS fellow (who requested anonymity) filmed the communities and their relationship with disappearing turtles—a result of the conflict that hinders animal conservation efforts.

A crowd of men, women and kids stand in front of a TV screen
The screening event was led by an OMOS fellow in Samban village in Myanmar / Credit: CJPlatform.
A crowd sits in chairs watching a movie on screen
The screening event was held in Thailand’s northeastern Nong Kai province where local communities have experienced the impact of the Mekong mainstream dams / Credit: ComNetMekong.

In Cambodia and Thailand, ComNetMekong, or the Northeast Thailand Community Network, partnered with EJN to showcase five films in seven provinces along the Mekong Basin.

The films were shown to a grassroots community in Sangkhom district of Thailand’s northeastern Nong Kai province where fisheries are rapidly declining and riverbanks are experiencing severe erosion. They link the phenomena to irregular water flow associated with mainstream hydropower dams in the Mekong River.

“This is the first time that our community members watched films about the challenges faced by those living along the Mekong River,” said Ormbun Thipsuna from ComNetMekong.

“They’ve understood more about the on-ground situations beyond their community territories. Some were inspired to protect their natural resources before they get too close to extinction.”

Look out for these films on the EJN and Mekong Eye websites.


Banner image: OMOS fellows at the screening event to showcase their films in the Doc Club & Pub in Bangkok, Thailand / Credit: Sarakadee.

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