The Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) serves as a platform for promoting the conservation of the country’s natural resources, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The event showcases a selection of 153 films from over 40 countries at various Phnom Penh cimemas, including 48 Cambodian titles. Agriculture minister Dith Tina presided over the opening of the festival’s Mekong Discovery Days programme on June 27.  He said that the film festival is a time to promote culture while also disseminating a large amount of knowledge, particularly on themes related to the Mekong region.  "It is an opportunity to think about natural resources, to show our children and our people what we have, what we are doing and what we plan to do more," Tina said after attending a documentary. The minister admitted that he was unfamiliar with seabed issues, but after seeing the film, he acknowledged that some land activities should be avoided to conserve resources and the environment. "We cannot dispose of our waste in other people's homes," he said. "As the sea and the rivers are home to our fish, we cannot throw [our waste] in them."  CIFF director Cedric Eloy expressed his gratitude to the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) and the agriculture ministry for their presence and the participation of the minister.

Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) director Cedric Eloy speaks at the opening of Mekong Discovery Days at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) on June 27. Bophana Center

“I also want to highlight the participation of all our partners, including for the first time, the UN in Cambodia, the UN World Food Programme [WFP] and the UN Development Programme [UNDP],” said Eloy. “I also thank all the young people attending because it was also made for the youth to learn more about the environment, biodiversity and communities,” he added.  Eloy invited partners to organise the event annually so that the movement can grow and potentially travel outside of Phnom Penh to other provinces, and not just during the festival.  “This year … there is a lot of focus on biodiversity discovery and the relationship between climate change and the environment,” he said. The Wonders of the Mekong project, in collaboration with the Bophana Center, organised Mekong Discovery Days, a programme which also highlights the groundbreaking research of young Cambodian scientists. A June 28 panel discussion showcased the personal experiences and inspiring stories of early-career researchers who have dedicated their efforts to studying fish, water and biodiversity in Cambodia. These passionate individuals are committed not only to biology conservation and environmental studies but also to educating young children and the public about the marvels of science, focusing on crucial topics like river flow, fish production, fish diversity, water quality and pollution. “The project aims to preserve the natural resources and integrity of the Mekong River. Addressing challenges such as habitat degradation, illegal fishing, pollution and climate change, these scientists play a vital role in ensuring the river's sustainability and health,” stated a Facebook post on the programme. According to the post, the event aimed to inspire the next generation, showing young children that they too can become researchers, make a significant impact on their communities and the world, foster a love for science and promote a sustainable future.