“The Bunong believe that nature is populated by spirits, both good and bad, and that these must be obeyed and appeased. No spirits are more powerful than those of the Spirit Forests.”
The Bunong practice a very diverse, dynamic, unstructured and often secretive traditional medicine. Originally tied to the large biodiversity of their forest environment, the wars of the 1970s had a significant impact on the Bunong culture and knowledge of traditional medicine, when everybody relocated to either Vietnam or the Cambodian Koh Niek district. New plants and practices were acquired by the Bunong in these new locations, but upon returning in the 1980s and 1990s, knowledge and use of plants native to their homelands had been forgotten by many. Adequate conventional biomedicine and healthcare can be difficult or impossible to obtain by the locals in the countryside of Cambodia - in particular during the rainy season - and it is therefore official policy of the Cambodian government (backed by the WHO) to support the practice of traditional medicines. Research shows that, as of 2011, 95% of the inhabitants in two Bunong villages still regularly use medicinal plants. It is hoped that the Bunong culture of traditional medicine can help to build respect for the environment and halt the deforestation and habitat loss of Cambodia on a local level.