Sunday, November 16, 2008

Swede apologizes for sympathizing with Khmer Rouge

In this photo released by Hedda Ekerwald, Gunnar Bergstrom, a former Swedish communist, poses for a picture at an abandoned market in Kampong Cham province in eastern Cambodia during a visit at the invitation of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1978. Bergstrom supported the late dictator Pol Pot's denial of international accusations that the Khmer Rouge regime was committing atrocities against the Cambodian people during its 1975-79 rule. Bergstrom now apologizes to the Cambodians for his past misjudgment and support of the Khmer Rouge propaganda as he prepares to visit Cambodia for the second time in 30 years. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Hedda Ekerwald)
In this photo released by Hedda Ekerwald, Gunnar Bergstrom, a former Swedish communist, in white shirt, meets with Cambodian villagers during his visit to Cambodia at the invitation of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1978. Bergstrom supported the late dictator Pol Pot's denial of international accusations that the Khmer Rouge regime was committing atrocities against the Cambodian people during its 1975-79 rule. Bergstrom now apologizes to the Cambodians for his past misjudgment and support of the Khmer Rouge propaganda as he prepares to visit Cambodia for the second time in 30 years. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Hedda Ekerwald)
Gunnar Bergstrom, left, a former Swedish communist who sympathized with the Khmer Rouge regime, talks to journalists upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008. The 57-year-old, who visited this country in 1978 as a guest of the Khmer Rouge regime, returned to Cambodia on Sunday for the first time in 30 years, to donate his archives from the trip and publish a photo book recounting the journey. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


2008-11-16
By KER MUNTHIT
Associated Press


When Gunnar Bergstrom was a guest of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime in August 1978, the young Swede enjoyed a dinner of oysters and fish hosted by dictator Pol Pot.

The meal followed a rare interview he and three of his countrymen were given by the secretive communist leader who labeled talk about genocide under his rule a Western lie.

The young European leftists, members of an unofficial friendship delegation, shared Pol Pot's view, seeing the Khmer Rouge takeover as a revolution to transform Cambodia into a fairer society benefiting the poor.

Bergstrom has since realized he was mistaken about Pol Pot's brutal regime, and he wants to make amends.

"We had been fooled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We had supported criminals," he told The Associated Press by phone from his Stockholm home.

The 57-year-old Swede arrived in Cambodia Sunday, for the first time in 30 years, to donate his archives from the trip and publish a photo book recounting the journey.

Bergstrom has deep regrets about his August 1978 trip to Democratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was then called. He was one of only a handful of Westerners whom the xenophobic Khmer Rouge allowed to visit during its 1975-79 hold on power.

While presenting an earnest and progressive face to foreign visitors, the Khmer Rouge were inflicting a reign of terror that left an estimated 1.7 million dead from starvation, overwork, disease and execution.

"For those still appalled by my support of the Khmer Rouge at the time, and especially those who suffered personally under that regime, I can only say I am sorry and ask for your forgiveness," Bergstrom says in his book, "Living Hell."

In 1978, Bergstrom was president of the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship Association, a small political group that identified with the communism of Mao Zedong's China and was motivated by the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam.

To their Swedish sympathizers, the Khmer Rouge revolution presented an "idealistic idea about an alternative society," Bergstrom said.

The Khmer Rouge had its origins in the struggle against French colonialism in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, while its ideology was shaped in part by the French university education of several of its leaders, including Pol Pot. It came to power by toppling a pro-American Cambodian government in 1975 after a bitter five-year civil war.

Within days of their April 17 takeover, the Khmer Rouge began a radical social upheaval, emptying the cities and sending people to work in massive rural collectives. They simultaneously cut almost all links with the outside world.

But the regime's flawed plans for a communist utopia sparked a paranoid search for scapegoats.

Bloody purges swept the country, and attacks were made on border villages in neighboring Vietnam. An invasion by Hanoi would drive the Khmer Rouge from power in early 1979.

A few months before the collapse, the Khmer Rouge invited foreigners, mostly left-wing sympathizers, to visit in a halfhearted effort to whitewash accusations of human rights abuses.

During their 14-day tour, Bergstrom's delegation saw what their hosts wanted them to see: smiling Cambodian faces, clean hospitals, well-fed people eating happily in cooperative kitchens.

They interviewed Pol Pot, who called accusations of atrocities "Western propaganda and a lie."

The Swedes were sympathetic.

"Pol Pot was maybe wrong but he wasn't that bad," Bergstrom said, recalling his thoughts at the time. "We came home with a belief that we have found the truth somehow that this (story about killings) is Western propaganda."

"Our excuse was that 'The (Cambodian) revolution is young, immature, you will never have a perfect revolution, and that these killings ... are now (occurring) in the beginning and will stop later.'"

But evidence that emerged after the Khmer Rouge's fall forced Bergstrom to change his views.

"It's like falling off the branch of the tree," said Bergstrom, who now works as a counselor for drug addicts. "You have to re-identify everything you have believed in."

To make amends, he wrote articles for the Swedish press renouncing his support for the Khmer Rouge.

He is donating his photo and movie archive from the 1978 trip to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group researching Khmer Rouge crimes. The center is publishing his book and organizing forums around Cambodia at which Bergstrom will speak, and he will visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school and the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility.

"It's a healing process for him," said Youk Chhang, the center's director. "He's part of our history now, and it's our mission to help people reconcile and move on."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Communist HO,MAO&SIHANOUK have no any religion.They have destroyed Khmer since 1970,they have killed each other until today.
Please UN,real justice!

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=KHb_K_tOS6k&feature=related

Anonymous said...

http://ki-media.blogspot.com/2008/04/un-chief-calls-for-speedy-cambodia.html

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=P0tkI2dO8_A&feature=related

http://ki-media.blogspot.com/2008/09/cambodian-tribunal-worries-about.html

Anonymous said...

Show the World who you are,

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=-prbpyUpIWs&feature=related

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=VPReiQ9UsLY

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=Htc4PbnssOE

Anonymous said...

Wake up khmer,make your comment

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=huZ1oiRMClI

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=KrBbRN-5YOA

Anonymous said...

http://unclesampolpot.blogspot.com/
http://www.youtube.com/user/AhmekKhmer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yEhkzAWgHs

នឹងមើលឃើញត្រីនៅពេលដែលទឹកថ្លា

Tuk Trey said...

Mr. Bergstrom,

Today, you're coming back to support Hun Sen, Hor Namhong, & Chea Sim! What is so different? If you are looking for reconcile and heals your wound, you're barking at the wrong tree.

I am among the survivor of Pol Pot Regime. I realized you're looking for Forgiveness, and perhaps inner peace as well. I suggest you started by helping the poor in Cambodia Now, and photograph of the abuse of the impoverish Khmers under the CPP's conglomerate.

Anonymous said...

7:44 Tuk Trey

what is wrong with you man? The article NEVER, EVER mentioned Hun Sen or any of the politicians u mentioned. The article NEVER, EVER mentioned the Swede wanting to support anybody. Stop being so emotional, it just make you sound dumb. Respect is due for your survival of KR Regime, but if you are that old, use your wisefulness for more rational statements. Ah lop. :):):)

Tuk Seang

Anonymous said...

True, ths guy is confused.

My question is why it took the swedish guy so long (30 years) to do what he is doing now. The world learned of Pol Pot Genocidal regime since 1979. What was he thinking or doing between 1979 and 1008?

Anonymous said...

If someone has Gunnar Bergstrom email, please post it here.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hun Sen regime is not any better then pol pot for both are under youn affiliation.

Khmer peope are not free to express themself without getting abused or getting killed. The poor are getting poorer. Khmer people are now freed from the french but still not freed from hanoi. Only a fool couldn't see that.

And for this guy bergstrom. He should do more to help cambodia and why so long after 30 years?
His only intention is saving his own faces.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bergstrom,

I, now, learned that your admission to MISTAKES you're made years ago. Forgot about Saloth Sar Regime pulling on your legs, and made you a Jackass.

Since, you're in Cambodia now. Please learn the true masks of the current government. IT IS TRUE THAT THE CURRENT REGIME ISN'T KR REGIME, BUT THEY ARE BORNED OF THE SAME BLOOD. AND IT'S TRUE WE DON'T GET EXECUTED & SHOVED IT INTO THE MASS GRAVE, BUT HUN SEN REGIME LIVE TO TERRORIZE THE CITIZENS OF CAMBODIA.

Mr. Bergstrom, perhaps you're done with pictures taking with the KR regime. But, I ablige you to step out of the Phnom Pehn city boundary to photograph the citizens that loss his/her land and human dignity because the CPP robbed of their humanity.

Mr. Bergstrom, I assure you that the current government can be equate to Saloth Sar era, except we (Khmers) don't get kill of a truck load anymore. READ YASH GHAI, GLOBAL WITNESS REPORTS, ETC.

Tuk Trey said...

Come on Tuk Seang,

Read b/w the lines, and inserts the past knowledge to educate a person. I don't believe I should stick to the content of the article or news.

Anonymous said...

Tuk Trey and Tuk seang,

This Swede is now no longer in his prime time. It is good that he tried to reconcile his conscience, but I don't think he cares about giving the current regime a good or bad score.

Tuk Prahok

Anonymous said...

They are all former (Black clothe).

Anonymous said...

I can only say I am sorry and ask for your forgiveness," Bergstrom says in his book, "Living Hell."
Sir we try to forgive you but how do you feel about Khmer regime now a day? Aren't most of those leader was born by khmer rouge too? What could you say a bout them???

Anonymous said...

ហេ អា ទឹកសៀង
អាឯងប្រាកដជាឈ្លក់ ទឹកកណ្ដួយ មីសំផឹងយួនកន្តបហើយ មើលទៅ? ត្រូវទេអាចុយម្រ៉ាយ???

ទឹកកណ្ដួយ

Anonymous said...

If Mr Gunnar Bergstern is really sincere and learned something of his past mistake, he should at least stopping lying and stop continuing another genocide which is the massacre of memory of victims with his pencil. Why don’t he confess that he and his clan rouge didn’t only sympathized with Pol Pot or Khmer rouge but also with Vietcong and help these criminals to bring genocide against Khmer people which pushed Cambodia into yuon’s hell till today. Without support from people like Berstern and his clan rouge, killing field would never take place in Cambodia and Cambodia will probably has a chance to get out of yuon domination and genocide.

Stop to be that little psycho and be a human Mr Gunna. Not only those who kill who are convicted of crime but also those who assisted or pushed the killing to happen. You and your rouge clan have Khmer blood on hands same as yuons Vietcong or Khmer rouge as well.

Anonymous said...

Ah Scam Rainxy et Al always loves to butcher Khmer People.

Anonymous said...

ហេ អា ៧:១១ អាចុយម្រ៉ាយ បើពួកគេមិនបាន ចុយម៉ែឫបងប្អូនស្រីរបស់អាចុយម្រ៉ាយឯងទេនោះ
សូមអាឯងបិទម៉ាត់អោយស្ងៀមទៅ យល់ទេ???

Anonymous said...

i hope you bitchasss get shot in cambodia...........all i gotta say is WATCH YOUR FUCKIN BACK BITCH

Anonymous said...

there, the living witness by a westerner during the KR era. everywhere in cambodia's cities and towns were like a ghost town in the picture. that that the saddest period in Khmer history.