Dith Pran

Dith Pran

Birth
Siem Reap, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Death 30 Mar 2008 (aged 65)
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 25633354 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Photojournalist. Born in Siem Reap, Cambodia, near Angkor Wat, at school he learned French, since at that time Cambodia was part of French Indochina. He also taught himself English, and after finishing school in 1960, went to work as an interpreter for the United States Military Assistance Command in Cambodia. When Cambodia severed ties with the United States in 1965, he worked with a British film crew, then as a hotel receptionist. In 1970, a coup ignited a civil war, and government troops faced off with the Khmer Rouge. He returned to Phnom Penh and picked up work as an interpreter for foreign journalists. By 1972, he became friends with “New York Times” reporter Sidney Schanberg, and by 1973 worked with Schanberg exclusively. In April 1975, thousands of Cambodians tried to escape, and he put his wife and their four children on an American truck leaving the city, but he stayed to help Schanberg report the story of the Khmer Rouge takeover. At one point, he managed to talk Khmer Rouge soldiers out of shooting Schanberg and other reporters, but they were finally forced to leave the country leaving Dith trapped. The Khmer Rouge issued orders to summarily execute anyone who displayed evidence of Western influence, so he dressed as a peasant, denied his education, and any association with Americans in order to save his life. In 1975, he traveled to a village where he was forced to harvest rice while receiving political instruction at night, he was allowed to eat one spoonful of rice per day, supplemented by anything else he could find, such as bark, snakes, snails, insects, and rats. After more than four years in what he termed the killing fields, he finally escaped over the Thai border in October 1979. He had lost some fifty members of his family to the Khmer Rouge including his father, three brothers, a sister, and numerous nieces and nephews. From a Thai refugee camp, he contacted Schanberg, who almost immediately flew to meet met him, then helped him move to the United States, where he was reunited with his family. His story appeared in a 1980 Schanberg article, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran” which appeared in The New York Times. This was the basis of the 1984 movie, “The Killing Fields” and was followed by a book with the same title in 1985. In 1980 Dith became a photographer for The New York Times as well, where he was noted for his imaginative and evocative photographs. In 1986, he became an American citizen. In 1997, he compiled 'Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors.' He served as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, dedicated to educating people on the history of the Khmer Rouge. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 65.

Bio by: Iola


Advertisement

Advertisement

How famous was Dith Pran?

Current rating:

98 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: John M
  • Added: 30 Mar 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 25633354
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dith Pran (27 Sep 1942–30 Mar 2008), Find a Grave Memorial no. 25633354, citing Chestnut Grove Cemetery, Herndon, Fairfax County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated.