Twelve representatives of the Bunong indigenous community in Mondulkiri province have filed a lawsuit with the provincial court against social media celebrity Try Dana on January 3, alleging that she had publically insulted them on Facebook on December 22.
In the letter of complaint, the Bunong representatives stated that Dana made statements that publically insulted the Bunong people and affected their honour and dignity.
The letter said that in order to change the negative attitudes of some Cambodians towards the Bunong indigenous people and to restore their honour and dignity, Dana must publicly apologize to them. They also requested that the court fine Dana for the sum of 10 million riel and order him to pay $200,000 in compensation to the Bunong community.
Try Dana is a singer and social media influencer who is best known for selling jewellery and lotions via Facebook and other platforms. She could not be reached for comment on January 3.
In a live video posted to her Facebook account on December 22 and reviewed by The Post while researching this story, Dana said that she was angry with her former husband and she insults him in the video – calling him things like “crazy” and “cheap” – while discussing her personal relationship with him.
At one point in the video, Dana states: “If [my ex-husband] chats to me and says that [he] realized his mistake and his mistakes were due to the influence of his friends and family, maybe I’d be relieved, because he comes from these rude, gangster-type Bunong people living on the outskirts of the village.”
Kreung Tola, adviser to the Bunong indigenous communities in Mondulkiri province, said on January 3 that Dana’s insults were racist and encouraged the public to view Bunong people as ignorant criminals who are lower than animals.
He said that the Bunong do not need such discrimination and misunderstanding in their lives and that – although they are from a different ethnic group than Khmer – they are also citizens of Cambodia.
Tola said that people living in the same Kingdom should be united to build their nation together and there was no justification for this kind of discrimination.
“Bunong people have brains, strength and patriotism. During the war the Bunong served as soldiers and medics and all kinds of other roles,” he said.
He added that today there were still Bunong serving in the military, military police and national police as well as others who worked in the National Assembly and Senate.
“Why does she look down on us? Why does she think her ex-husband represents all Bunong people? We should not regard this or that group of people as being all bad or all good. We are individuals but we’re also all the same people. We are Cambodians who are living together with unity, understanding and tolerance,” he said.
According to Tola, there have been many cases of racism and discrimination against the Bunong people in the past and that is why the Bunong people are sensitive to such insults and want to eliminate those stereotypes so that these incidents do not keep happening in the future.
The representatives of the Bunong also noted how racism has been used in the past as a pretext for wars, massacres and genocides between ethnic groups all over the world and as a minority ethnic group they felt that in the interests of their community’s long-term safety these outward displays of racism must be challenged.
“We do not want to see [conflict] again. We want to live together, united. We want to develop, grow and build this nation together with you. We do not want a war within this nation between one ethnicity and another,” he said.