Dith Pran

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Dith Pran
Dith Pran..jpg
Born (1942-09-27)September 27, 1942
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Died March 30, 2008(2008-03-30) (aged 65)
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Residence Woodbridge, New Jersey
Employer New York Times
Known for The Killing Fields
Partner(s) Sydney Schanberg

Dith Pran (Khmer: ឌិត ប្រន; September 27, 1942 – March 30, 2008) was a Cambodian photojournalist best known as a refugee and survivor of the Cambodian Genocide. He was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields (1984). He was portrayed in the movie by first-time actor Haing S. Ngor (1940–1996), who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.

Early life[edit]

Pran was born in Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat. His father worked as a public works official.[1] He learned French at school and taught himself English.

The United States Army hired him as a translator but after his ties with the United States were severed, Pran worked with a British film crew and then as a hotel receptionist.[1]

Revolution[edit]

In 1975, Pran and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the Communist Khmer Rouge.[1] Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave the country, but Pran was not.[1] Due to persecution of intellectuals during the genocide, he hid the fact that he was educated or that he knew Americans and pretended to be a taxi driver.[1] When Cambodians were forced to work in labor camps, Pran had to endure four years of starvation and torture before Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge. in December 1978.[1] He coined the phrase "killing fields" to refer to the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered during his 40-mile escape. His three brothers and one sister were killed in Cambodia.

Pran traveled back to Siem Reap where he learned that 50 members of his family had died.[1] The Vietnamese had made him village chief but he feared they would discover his US ties and escaped to Thailand on 3 October 1979.[1]

From 1980 Pran worked as a photojournalist with the New York Times.

Personal life[edit]

In 1986 he became a US citizen with his then wife Ser Moeun Dith, whom he later divorced. He then married Kim DePaul but they also divorced.[1] He also campaigned for recognition of the Cambodian genocide victims, especially as founder and president of The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project. He was a recipient of an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998 and the Award of Excellence of the International Center.

Death[edit]

On March 30, 2008, Pran died, aged 65, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just three months earlier. He was living in Woodbridge, New Jersey.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Martin, Douglas (March 31, 2008). "Dith Pran, "Killing Fields" Photographer, Dies at 65". The New York Times. "Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people's rights, died on Sunday at a hospital in New Brunswick, NJ He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, NJ" 
  2. ^ Pyle, Richard (March 31, 2008). ""Killing Fields" survivor Dith Pran dies.". The Associated Press. "Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born journalist whose harrowing tale of enslavement and eventual escape from that country's murderous Khmer Rouge revolutionaries in 1979 became the subject of the award-winning film "The Killing Fields," died Sunday. He was 65." 

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