Ming Li Yong, Ph.D.


Lecturer in Environmental Ethics and Development


Ph.D. in Human Geography
The University of Sydney (Australia)

MSSc in Human Geography
National University of Singapore (Singapore)

B.S. in Geography (Honours, Minor in Sociology)
National University of Singapore (Singapore)


SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

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Faculty Profile

I am a human geographer from Singapore who is passionate about environmental and development issues, and particularly water governance, in the Mekong Region. I enjoy studying such issues from a multi-scalar perspective, especially in examining how nature-society relationships shift in relation to human-driven ecological changes in the region, and how such shifts and changes have been met with myriad forms of adaptation and contestations. In all, I have about 10 years of research experience relating to the Mekong Region. My Honours research at the National University of Singapore (NUS) focused on the Don Sahong Dam and the multiple perspectives afforded by the anti-dam lobby through the lens of knowledge production and demonstrated how these perspectives were closely intertwined with a politics of knowledge and legitimacy. For my Masters degree, also undertaken at NUS, I examined from northern Thailand how the Mekong River along the Thai-Lao border was managed as a transboundary commons, particularly focusing on how changing ecosystems, livelihoods and socionatures intertwined to produce new ways of managing riverine “territories” at the village level. This included an investigation into how an environmental movement had arisen in relation to large-scale development projects planned for the Mekong River, resulting in transformed ways of perceiving and carrying out community-based natural resource management and conservation.

My PhD research at The University of Sydney focused on public participation and contested hydropower governance in the Lower Mekong Basin, particularly in expanding an understanding of how state and non-state participatory spaces related to one another in relation to mainstream hydropower development on the Mekong River, and what meaningful public participation would entail in this context. I spent a year conducting fieldwork in Thailand and Cambodia in 2017, spending time in both rural and urban areas to observe public participation events and to interview village community representatives, civil society representatives, and government officials. During my time in Cambodia, I was based at the Cambodia Development Resource Institute as a visiting researcher and had the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in villages both along the Mekong River in Stung Treng Province and on the Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap Province. In addition to academic research, I also worked as a research analyst for the Singapore government from 2013 to 2015, where I contributed towards policy-relevant assessments and papers concerning geopolitical developments in the Mekong Region.

While pursuing my postgraduate studies, I worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the NUS Department of Geography and as a casual tutor and lecturer in The University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences. I have taught on a wide range of environmental courses, including second- and third-year courses on nature and society, environmental sustainability, natural resource management, environmental ethics and law, a five-week field studies course in Thailand, and a Masters-level course on social science and the environment. I have enjoyed teaching and exchanging ideas with students to produce new perspectives on current environmental challenges. During my time at SFS, I hope to continue to do so with SFS students and to work with stakeholders in Cambodia to conduct relevant environmental research that will address the environmental challenges that the country faces.

Areas of Expertise

  • Water governance
  • Political ecology
  • Nature-society relationships
  • Public participation
  • Civil society and social movements
  • Environmental ethics


Grundy-Warr, C., Sithirith, M., and Yong, M.L. (2014) Volumes, fluidity and flows: Rethinking the ‘nature’ of political geography. Political Geography, 45, 93-95
Middleton, C., Grundy-Warr, C. and Yong, M.L. (2013) Neoliberalizing hydropower in the Mekong Basin: The political economy of partial enclosure. Social Science Journal, 43 (2), 299-334
Yong, M.L. and Grundy-Warr, C. (2012) Tangled nets of discourse and turbines of development: Lower Mekong mainstream dam debates. Third World Quarterly, 33 (6), 1037-1058


“Performing Participation: The Contested Spaces of Hydropower Governance in the Lower Mekong Basin”. Presented at Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) Conference 2018, 28-31 August 2018, Cardiff, UK
“Knowledge flows along the Mekong River: Participation, Transparency and Accountability in Hydropower Governance”. Presented at 22nd Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, 3-5 July 2018, Sydney, Australia
“Transboundary Environmental Governance and Hydropower Development on the Mekong River’s Mainstream: Spaces of Contestation, Participation and Dialogue in Thailand”. Presented at 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, 15-18 July 2017, Chiang Mai, Thailand
“Assembling Transboundary Decision-making Arenas and Hydropower Development in the Lower Mekong River Basin: The case of Thailand and Cambodia”. Presented at Thailand in Comparative Perspective: An International Symposium, 26-27 September 2016, Sydney, Australia
“Assembling Translocal Spaces of Possibility: Governance, Participation, and Hydropower Development in the Lower Mekong River Basin”. Presented at the Institute of Australian Geographers 2016 Conference, 29 June – 1 July 2016, Adelaide, Australia
“From State Relations to Social Relations on the Mekong Transboundary Commons: Seeing Like a State, Seeing Like a Chao Baan/Neak Tonle”. Presented at the 3rd International Conference on International Relations and Development, 22-23 August 2013, Bangkok, Thailand
“Riverscapes as Trans-borderscapes: A Case Study of the Mekong River”. Presented with Dr. Carl Grundy-Warr at The XII International Scientific Meeting on Border Regions in Transition (BRIT), 13-16 November 2012, Fukuoka, Japan/Busan, South Korea