Indigenous Community Sues Cosmetics Tycoon Try Dana Over ‘Bunong’ Insult

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Bunong community members in Mondulkiri province’s O’Reang district meet officers of the Supreme Consultative Council in 2019. (File photo: Sroy Khet’s Facebook page)

The Bunong community is asking high-profile online cosmetics and jewelry seller Try Dana to visit them and join a traditional ceremony as an apology after Dana publicly disparaged her violent husband as “Bunong.”

The community filed a complaint to the Mondulkiri Provincial Court on January 3 asking for a public apology, fine of $2,500 and $20,000 in compensation.

Dana had said of her husband, whom she has also accused of brandishing a gun and using violence against her, in a Facebook video in December: “This bastard is Bunong.”

The court complaint says Dana’s derogatory use of the work “Bunong” was a public insult to the indigenous community.

“It affects the honor and dignity of indigenous peoples in public,” it says. The lawsuit was filed “in order to eradicate negative attitudes through public insults and to provide collective honor and dignity for indigenous peoples who have done nothing to harm Try Dana.”

Seav Ngichoan, spokesperson for the provincial prosecution, said all parties would be summoned to Mondulkiri.

“We have summoned the indigenous people, but we have not questioned them yet. We will summon Try Dana as well, but as there are so many plaintiffs, we have to summon them first,” Ngichoan said.

However, Kroeung Tola, a coordinator for the Mondulkiri Indigenous People Network and one of the plaintiffs, said Dana had apologized on Facebook, and the community was willing to compromise — but they wanted her, and not a representative, to show up in Mondulkiri.

“Try Dana’s friend said that she couldn’t come as she was busy. Indigenous people said she has to come whether she’s busy or not because it is related to their traditions. If she doesn’t come, they won’t agree. But if she comes, they will withdraw the complaint immediately,” Tola said. “She can come for a short time, they are also OK with that.”

There would be a ceremony held upon her arrival, he added.

“We put up statues and buffaloes for good luck, and that’s all. She always says she is busy, she cannot come, but we will wait.”

Kong Visal, a representative for Dana, said he would meet and talk with the community.

“We are in discussions with them and they agreed on all points, and she also apologized,” he said. “The word was used unintentionally and they do not really demand much.”

“We need to meet them again,” he said. “They already understand each other.”

Dana, a self-proclaimed “business owner, celebrity and a humanitarian,” has a following of 3.6 million on Facebook, where she posts photos of trips and donations and two-hour long videos showcasing cosmetics. She has previously been involved in a spat with a rival cosmetics seller, while scammers who are said to have duped thousands of Kampong Speu residents in 2020 reportedly spent their gains on Try Dana gold and diamonds.

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