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 Rouge, The 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.