Thong Phynuch- a social worker from Cambodia
In our world, developing countries seem like the growing children that need to be looked after properly because the nature of children always create more problems than progress. Countries in Southeast Asian region mostly are the developing countries that are constantly seeking unlimited developments in technology, infrastructures, energy, and many other sectors, and frequently the consequences of those developments affect many people’s lives in the region and the whole world. At the same time during the process of development, countless cubic metres of valuable woods have been logged illegally; sand, gold, oil, and so on have been sold without proper evaluations.
We understand that without a green environment, humans and other species will no longer exist on this planet, so what is the role for youth involvement in protecting the environment in Southeast Asia?
Nhu Nguyen Cao Quynh- a 23 year-old journalist from Vietnam, is concerned that the her country is limiting the involvement of youth in environmental protection in her home country. “A few months ago, we met a big problem, there were factories severely contaminated the rivers in the centre of Vietnam. It seems like those factories want to destroy the whole rivers that are the source of people’s livelihoods and it extremely affects the lives of many people there. A few weeks later, young people gathered on the roads and demanded that those factories stop contaminating the waterways After that, some young protesters were arrested by the authorities, we are very scared. We cannot even express our concerns about the issue via Facebook because our posts will be restricted.”
Illegal logging is irresistible because the luxury timbers like rosewood and mahogany are very expensive. Rosewood is often sold in China for USD 50,000 per cubic metre.
Due to the increasing growth of unemployment, people are not getting proper jobs, instead deciding to choose to be illegal loggers and to kill forest defenders in order to defend their illegal works in the middle of the forests.
According to Global Witness, more than 950 forest defenders were killed between 2002 and 2014 - activists, rangers, and indigenous people. The number of deaths in the past five years has risen to two a week.
In Cambodia, illegal logging across the country is a huge contributor to changing in the regional and global climate. In 2013, for instance, it resulted in an estimated 190 million tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Every year, thousands of cubic metres of luxurious woods have been sold to neighboring countries like Vietnam and China. Millions of dollars from selling this woods has been made increasingly and secretly. However, many Cambodian people have not really benefited from this money.
In recent years, there are many environmental activists who have been actively involved in protecting forests, sand sites and protesting for an end on dam constructions that affect local people’s livings. Many campaigners in Cambodia have been killed, arrested, and threatened with death by unknown people. On November 2015, there were two Cambodian forest defenders of the Forestry Administration’s law enforcement team were shot dead while they were sleeping in hammocks.
Do all of these barriers limit the involvements of Cambodian young people? Thong Phynuch is an active social worker from Cambodia. “Right now we have the opportunity to learn and join social movements in order to protect the environment and conserve our forests, but I notice there are four main barriers that block us from involvement; personal commitments, family restriction, financial support, limitation on education, and the restriction of the governmental authorities.” He added, “one of my suggestions to our young environmental lovers and activists is that we need to be well-informed enough about some important adopted environmental regulations, information, and our rights and obligations before we go out there to take action.”
(Copyright: UNESCO/YONG HENG— this content was first published as part of the Youth Newsroom of the Regional Roundtable “Youth at the Heart of the Agenda 2030: The Case for Space” here:http://www.case4space.org/newsroom)