Thy Heang, who grew up in Phnom Penh, is currently a communications officer at Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, which monitors the country’s oil and gas industry.
She has a master’s in journalism from Hong Kong Baptist University and is currently on a four-month fellowship for the Community Solutions Program, which is sponsored by the leadership nonprofit IREX.
In the program Thy Heang and 66 others, including another Cambodian, will learn more about transparency and accountability, environmental issues, conflict resolution and women’s issues.
The fellows attended a one-week seminar in Washington in August before settling into US states based on their areas of interest.
“I am currently working for an American local NGO named Great Basin Resource Watch, in Reno, Nevada,” Thy Heang said in a recent interview. “This NGO is primarily working on mining exploration by providing advice and advocacy skills to local communities to push their governments to find solutions and clean areas in which mining companies were working.”
Thy Heang said she is happy to be involved in advocacy work in the US, including “organizing events to call for the government to check on the areas in which minerals are extracted.”
“I also have exchanged knowledge with other staff [members] related to legal issues,” she said. “For example, what kind of legal procedures we should look at to do advocacy work with the government.”
Meanwhile, she said, advocacy work in Cambodia’s oil, gas and mining industries remains weak, due to a lack of resources and knowledge and difficulty accessing information, as well as sites.
“I have been to mining exploration sites here,” she said. “It’s very easy. They have accessible roads for us to go on and monitor what they are doing. All exploration contracts with the government are made available on the website for the public to download. Communities also have the right to visit exploration areas and to sue the companies if their exploration affects the communities.”
Thy Heang said she hopes the Cambodian government will actively promote better transparency and involve civil society in oil, gas and mining, to increase the benefits to the public.