The desk of Documentation Center of Cambodia director Youk Chhang is surrounded by stacks of green boxes, fresh off a plane from Sweden. This latest addition to DC-Cam’s swelling archive on the Khmer Rouge arrived Monday and consists of 26 boxes filled with 400 kg of photocopied documents from the University of Lund in Stockholm.
The documents were collected by Israel Young, who was previously a fixture in the US folk music scene and produced Bob Dylan’s first concert in 1961.
“I’m a natural archivist,” Young, 78, said Tuesday by phone from Stockholm where he runs the Folklore Centrum, a folk music library and concert venue. “Everything I see, I take, especially if I think it’s interesting,” he added.
In 1973, Young moved from New York to Sweden, where he deepened his involvement with the anti-Vietnam war movement. He eventually joined the Sweden Kampuchea Friendship Association, a now-defunct group of Khmer Rouge sympathizers who sent a delegation to Cambodia in August 1978.
Young didn’t go on that trip, and he now says his sympathies with Pol Pot and his henchmen have dimmed. He also says he was unaware at the time that the Khmer Rouge regime was committing mass murder.
The documents include photos, books, speeches and newspaper clippings in French, English, Khmer and Swedish.
A quick perusal of one open box at DC-Cam on Tuesday revealed photos of dead Vietnamese soldiers and a 1979 speech by former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary at the UN. In 2001, Young gave the documents to the University of Lund, which retains the originals.
“It’s a piece of history that has been missing here,” Youk Chhang said Tuesday.
The costs of copying and transportation were paid for by the Swedish government, he said.
Whether the documents will be useful to researchers from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, who keep offices at DC-Cam, remains to be seen, but Youk Chhang has a feeling they will. “It’s all about not just history, but also prosecution,” he said.