Bergstrom accepted a rare invitation to tour
thought that the movement, the revolution here, was an example to the third
world,” he says now.
didn’t take foreign aid, they relied on their own forces, no money,
egalitarian… ‘The atrocity stories cannot be true totally anyway; probably just
slander.’ That maybe was the picture in 1978.”
Swedish group were happy to accept a rare invitation to tour
movements were closely controlled, and sightseeing opportunities put forward
only the best face of the revolution.
rubber factories, efficient collective farms and smiling workers were all
presented for the delegation’s edification.
says that even then he knew that everything could not be as it appeared, that
all the refugee stories about atrocities could not be lies, but he admits to
suppressing his doubts.
crazy enough to support the Khmer Rouge when I came home, and I quieted that
voice,” he sighs.
months of his visit, Vietnamese-backed forces ousted the Khmer Rouge, and the
full horror of the Pol Pot era finally became public knowledge.
Bergstrom’s support of the revolution came to an abrupt halt.
Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which has been gathering evidence for the
Khmer Rouge Tribunal, has arranged for the former Swedish solidarity group
member to return.
director, Youk Chhang, hopes that Mr Bergstrom’s latest tour will help the
say, ‘We were right – foreigners were here to help the Khmer Rouge and now he’s
apologised, we accept it.’ It’s important for many people to hear such
important for Mr Bergstrom to say it as well.
donated his photos from the 1978 trip to the centre, and they will be displayed
permanently at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum.
smiling women, deserted bus stations, a riverboat party – has two contrasting
captions, labelled “Thoughts from 1978” and “Thoughts Now”.
third caption: “Forbidden Thought at the Time”.
“quieted voice” is no longer silent.