Meach Mean was born in an ethnic Phnong village alongside the Sekong River in Northern Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge. His earliest childhood memories do not resemble a childhood most of us could recognize.
Struggling to survive through years of forced labor, starvation, and incessant bombing, Mean managed to begin working at the Cambodian Department of Environment in 1996 . As he gained more knowledge about the environment and the impact of harmful development projects, Mean’s interest shifted to environmental activism.
When he was invited to join a study on the impact of the Yali Falls Dam, Mean saw firsthand the devastation that can be caused by large scale hydropower. He brought this knowledge to his communities in the Sesan, Sreypok, and Sekong (3S) River Basin and became a key activist in the mobilization of communities against the Lower Sesan 2 Dam. After attending the EarthRights School Mekong in 2008, Mean became the director of the 3S Rivers Protection Network at the forefront of the dam’s opposition.
He currently focuses on the mainstream Mekong dams, striving for development that benefits all Cambodians through community empowerment. “Development must be for all stakeholders, all people in the region. We need to be careful with that.”