Ex-KR Sympathizer Returns With a New View

In August 1978, shortly before the fall of Democratic Kampuchea, Gunnar Bergstroem visited Cam­bodia as a Khmer Rouge sympathizer. He and three other members of the Swedish-Cambodian Friend­ship Association took a two-week propaganda tour of the country and dined with Pol Pot at the Royal Palace.

On Sunday, he returned to Cam­bodia for another tour—this time to repudiate his earlier visit. Now 57, Bergstroem works as a drug counselor in the north of Sweden and gave up his Maoism long ago.

Today he will visit Tuol Sleng, Choeung Ek and the Khmer Rouge tribunal; on Tuesday, an ex­hibit of photos taken by his delegation in 1978 will open at Tuol Sleng and the Reyum art gallery. He will then embark on a speaking tour, or­ganized by the Docu­men­tation Center of Cambodia, of five Cam­bodian provinces, where he will show the photos and discuss his experiences. DC-Cam has also pub­lished a book of the photo­graphs, complete with Berg­stroem’s an­notations of his reactions then and now. He spoke with The Cam­bodia Daily’s Rollo Ro­mig at DC-Cam headquarters Sunday afternoon.

Q. Why did you decide to return to Cambodia?

A. I had to think about this. What’s the point? First, it’s personal—to somehow make things right, if that’s possible. And I want to en­courage critical thinking.

We have a friendship association with Cuba in Sweden and they use the same arguments we used: ‘Well, Cuba’s basically good, so we can excuse that some writers are locked up, there aren’t so many.’ Today I think that every time you take one step away from freedom of speech, freedom of movement, elections, you’re on a sliding scale, and the idea that we will move back to democracy later—that never happens. So if I’ve learned something, I’ve learned that.

I looked out the window just now and saw two monks on the street, and I remember my own self-cen­sorship. Of course I knew that

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