Volker Grabowsky is Professor of Thai Language and Culture at the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg. He has published widely on the history and culture of the Tai peoples in mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China. He has embarked on long-term research projects pertaining to the manuscript cultures and Buddhist literary traditions of the Tai Lü and Lao. Besides, he has studied Thai-Cambodian relations with a special focus on the Preah Vihear temple conflict. Together Ooi Keat Gin he edited the volume “Ethnic and Religious Identities and Integration in Southeast Asia” (Paris/Chiang Mai: École française d’Extrême-Orient/Silkworm Book, 2017).

Project Summary

Democratic Kampuchea’s Revolutionary Terror of the 1970s: The role of the Cambodian Youth in state-supported and grassroots violence

This project seeks to analyse how the leadership of the Communist Party of Kampuchea led by Pol Pot exploited the idealism of the Cambodian youth for their political ends. It also aims to investigate how far the violence of the 1970s was instigated by the Communist leadership and to what extent local “grassroots” actors played a more decisive role. The project will study the mechanisms of recruitment of cadres and soldiers into the military and political apparatus of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and its mass organizations. Special attention is given to the relationship between young people from rural areas (belonging to the privileged category of “old people) and their peers who came from resettled urban families (“new people”) and were stigmatized as class enemies. The role of young people – male and female – as spies and informants, as members of the army, and as security guards will be examined as well. Apart from a survey of the published literature, the researcher will conduct archival research in Phnom Penh. Field trips to Anlong Veng and Pailin, where thousands of ex-Khmer Rouge families have been resettled, will be made to conduct semi-structured interviews with former Khmer Rouge cadres and soldiers as well as with their victims.