Also born in northern Cambodia, in Kratie Province, is another Ministry of Environment senior leader.
Mey Sithin, who completed his Master of Environmental Management and Development at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra in 2012, is a Deputy Chief of Public Participation Office of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Ministry of Environment (MOE).
Sithin’s mother (who was a Commune official until she retired) and his father (a teacher and later a nurse) both instilled in him the important of a good education and the need to contribute to his country and community.
Perhaps surprisingly considering his current profession, in school he excelled in Literature – and not in Mathematics or Physics.
Every so often there was advice from some of the neighbors. They said “sending him to school was a waste of resources. But his parents ignored the often repeated advice and continued to send him to school despite the fact that they also had to support another five children with the produce of a few small-paddy-rice fields.
“I was always interested in the Arts, and wanted to become an Architect, but although I eventually got better at drawing, I was not very good at Mathematics”, Sithin said.
By 2005, one year after starting work with the Environmental Department in a province, Sithin had already completed extensive studies in Cambodia, gaining a Bachelor of Education (TEFL), a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Education - from the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL), the Royal University of Agriculture and the University of Cambodia.
“I have always had a strong commitment to on-going learning”, he explained. “I always want to improve myself”.
Although initially enjoying working in a province, he decided that he could do more for Cambodia and for himself by joining the Ministry of Environment.
“I could see clearly the limited opportunities available for human resource development in my location”, he said.
In 2010, Sithin travelled to Australia to take up his Australia Award scholarship, along with his wife and two sons. In Australia, he remained committed to his studies, as in Cambodia, and submitted all his assignments on time, even though suffering from an eye disease (fixed by laser surgery while on Award).
“Australia was a great place, not only to do my Masters studies but also to expand my family’s and my own knowledge of another country and culture.”
In Australia, he had to learn how to study in “a different way to before”.
“There, I had good access to on-line sources, and was able to maximise my research using the most recent, available international journals.”
After returning to Cambodia from Australia, he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Office, EIA Department.
In that role he regularly uses the skills he gained in Australia – in undertaking research, doing cost-benefit analyses, environmental impact analyses and EIA guideline development.
As part of those responsibilities, Sithin is currently developing EIA guideline on oil and gas and Public Participation for the EIA Department, Ministry of Environment cooperated with relevant NGOs.
And in the limited spare time he has, he lectures on Environment, and is keen to transfer the skills and knowledge gained in Australia - and since - to young Cambodian.
My work in the Ministry of Environment is very practical, so extending myself through study and lecturing provides a good balance.”
Sithin is pleased that he works in such an organisation that values knowledge and experience.
“My supervisor at the time originally nominated me for a scholarship and has always supported using graduates’ skills in the MoE.” This support, along with that of a young proactive Minister, means that the MoE is truly a ‘learning organisation’.”