Dith Pran, a farewell

For many of us who were too young at the time to fully grasp the human atrocities suffered by the people of Cambodia during the regime of the Khmer RougeThe Killing Fields was the very powerful movie in the 1980s that showed us an overflowing album of the saddest pictures in that part of the world. I have watched that year’s Oscars that awarded the late physician and actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor (1940-1996) for his soulful portrayal of the translator and photojournalist Mr. Dith Pran. But I have seen the film in full only in 2004.
The New York Times announced yesterday the passing away of Mr. Pran, losing to his pancreatic cancer.
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, N.J. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, N.J.
He had been a journalistic partner of Mr. Schanberg, a Times correspondent assigned to Southeast Asia. He translated, took notes and pictures, and helped Mr. Schanberg maneuver in a fast-changing milieu. With the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Mr. Schanberg was forced from the country, and Mr. Dith became a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists.
Mr. Schanberg wrote about Mr. Dith in newspaper articles and in The New York Times Magazine, in a 1980 cover article titled “The Death and Life of Dith Pran.” (A book by the same title appeared in 1985.)
The story became the basis of the movie “The Killing Fields.”
The film, directed by Roland Joffé, showed Mr. Schanberg, played by Sam Waterston, arranging for Mr. Dith’s wife and children to be evacuated from Phnom Penh as danger mounted. Mr. Dith, portrayed by Dr. Haing S. Ngor (who won an Academy Award as best supporting actor), insisted on staying in Cambodia with Mr. Schanberg to keep reporting the news. He believed that his country could be saved only if other countries grasped the gathering tragedy and responded.
The full article which may be read here, contains a brief and beautiful account on Mr. Pran’s space in history including a video which was to be his last message to the world.

~ by Karina Descartin on 1 April 2008.

5 Responses to “Dith Pran, a farewell”

  1. Hi there! Great blog! I’m a 23 year old, former collegiate runner battling RSD. I hope you will check out my blog. It is my small attempt at creating awareness and spreading hope/inspiration for others who are suffering.


  2. I saw this movie. It was sad. You see all that violence, it doesn’t do good 😦

  3. I remember learning about the Khmer Rouge when I was 7 or 8. I think I was watching a documentary on them around the time The Killing Fields came out. I remember being shocked that this happened, especially since in school (I grew up in Manhattan) we only had ever learned about the Holocaust and how we should “Never allow that to happen again.” I supposed the fact that it had already happened again several times didn’t matter since the victims weren’t from western Europe.

    The world is not as rich now that Dith Pran is not with us anymore.

  4. I’d seen The Killing Fields when I was in Grade IV. That young, I didn’t fully understand what the story is all about. I got interested with the movie again when I bought a VCD copy of it in 2003. Dith Pran’s life experience is an inspiration to everyone. I didn’t know he already passed away until I read this post…

  5. Maria, Rafael, and Dodong: Thank you for coming by and for sharing your thoughts.

    OldMDGirl: I vaguely remember learning about the Holocaust in a very distant and academic way back when I was living in the Philippines. It was only when I started to travel here in the US with my family and many visits to museums later, that I have come to grasp the depths and horror of it all for the victims and their families. I learned most about it during visits to New York City many years ago. Recently, also visited the Holocaust museum here in Houston.

    Right on with your thoughts about other similar forms of atrocities. It happened again and again after the Holocaust in varying degrees but being outside the circle, the victims, families, and the concerned had to shout so much louder and longer.

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