Cultural Landscape of the Bunong People

World Monuments Watch
Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia

Site History and Significance

A Rich Cultural and Natural Landscape

The Bunong are an Indigenous community of the Mondulkiri province in northeastern Cambodia, whose way of life is intimately tied to their ancestral lands. In addition to distinct vernacular structures, the Bunong cultural landscape is composed of agricultural fields, spirit-forests and burial grounds —all living places of social, spiritual, and historical importance linked by religious practices and traditional knowledge. The Bunong serve as essential human stewards of this rich cultural landscape through their continuous cultivation of crops and traditional forest management practices.

Responding to Formidable Legal Challenges

This living landscape and Bunong way of life are affected by intense economic development, natural resource extraction and land commodification, which threaten to disconnect villagers from their ancestral grounds and traditions. Bunong communities all over the Cambodian highlands are trying to protect the places and practices that are integral to their daily lives and identity.

For the first time, the Bunong Indigenous Peoples Association, a local civil society group, plans to map and film Bunong spiritual and historical sites to support and promote the transmission of local ways of knowing and relating to land. Using digital tools, the community-led effort will allow Bunong communities to assert the importance of their living landscape while building skills to aid in their quest for greater recognition. 

2022 World Monuments Watch

Through the 2022 World Monuments Watch, World Monuments Fund (WMF) calls for greater awareness and supports efforts to use heritage preservation as a tool for strengthening Indigenous rights.

Learn More

Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programs—including advocacy, planning, education, and physical interventions in the historic built environment—to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation. 

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Last updated: May 2022.

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