Dith Pran, the photojournalist who documented murderous Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia for the New York Times in the ’70s, died today at age 65. In Cambodia, Mr. Dith worked alongside American journalist Sydney Schanberg, who was eventually forced out of the country, while Dith was taken prisoner and underwent a harrowing, tortuous ordeal. In the meantime, Schanberg accepted a Pulitzer Prize on their behalf, and worked for years to try to help his lost compatriot. From the Times:
“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, portrayed 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.”
Despite false reports of his death (one rumor was that he was eaten by an alligator, but that turned out to be his brother (!)), Dith survived and eventually escaped over the Thai border. Schanberg was there to meet him. He became an American citizen in 1986, and worked for the Times for the remainder of his career.
Here are some images from The Times slideshow:
Read more about Pran’s story. It’s truly amazing.