Main content

Fight for Areng Valley + Lost World

Fight for Areng Valley + Lost World

View on The Global Environmental Justice site

Rajashree Ghosh
Resident Scholar, Women’s
Studies Research Center,
Brandeis University

Miriam Morgenstern
Social Justice Educator,
Curriculum Consultant

Two related films
These films directed by Cambodian-American filmmaker Kalyanee Mam can be used separately or together.

Teacher's guides for college and secondary use
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background, questions and activities for each film, and supplementary materials.

For grades 8-12
The guide also includes lesson plans for grades 8-12 for each film. This is an experiment. If you would like to see more lesson plans for secondary use, in this vein, please contact us at

Fight for Areng  Watch this film

Reem Sav See and her family, members of the Chong ethnic minority, depend on the unspoiled river and forest environment in the lush Areng Valley for their livelihoods. The Areng Valley is home to 1,700 people, mostly Chong, who live in close-knit communities that are deeply connected to the land by local conservation and belief systems. The Chong consider the surrounding forests and the pristine Areng River to be sacred, inhabited by spirits, and the source of life. However, with support from China, the Stung Tatay dam is being constructed on the river, threatening to flood large swathes of forest and farms and displace 1,500 people. Given the threats to the sacred forests, rivers, and to their lives and livelihoods, Reem Sav See and other community members join Buddhist monks from Phnom Penh to oppose the dam and protect the forests.

Lost World   Watch this film
Near Koh Sralau, off the west coast of Cambodia, sand dredging is ravaging the ecosystem of the mangrove forests that thousands of families depend on for their livelihoods. Eighty million tons of sand have been extracted and transported to Singapore to expand its landmass and build a theme park. Dredging machines and sand barges also dump their waste directly into the river, causing steep declines in fish and crab catches. Vy Phalla and members of her village have borne the brunt of the mining operations. While residents of Koh Sralau grapple with the threat of erasure, a ravaged natural landscape, and ruined livelihoods, Singapore thrives in its veneer of sustainability in artificial “cloud forests” constructed in a greenhouse that showcases an exotic “lost world.”

Why we selected these films
Fight for Areng Valley and Lost World shed light on the environmental destruction caused by sand mining and dam construction in Cambodia, along with the more general threat posed by “development” projects to the culture, heritage, and livelihoods of indigenous peoples globally. The challenges facing the communities in these films are extraordinary, but so too are the people. They are strengthened by a proud heritage and a belief in a better future for their children and homeland.Taken together, these stories, beautifully filmed by Cambodian-American director Kalyanee Mam, provide a vivid and thoughtful meditation on humankind’s relationship to the natural world.

The enviironmental Justice focus of these films
Since the sand dredging began, every family in Vy Phalla’s community at Koh Sralau has experienced a family member being forced to migrate to other places and even other countries for work. “First the land gives way,” the director writes, “and then the people, and soon the entire fabric of a culture and identity is lost. Land was once considered the most secure and sacred ground we could stand on. Now even land, like people and commodities, can move and shift, smuggled and bartered for profit.”




file names


Related Films

Blood and Gold

Blood and Gold: Inside Burma’s Hidden War explores the intensification…

Waking the Green Tiger

Seen through the eyes of activists, farmers, and journalists, Waking the…