Who was Dith Pran?
Dith Pran was a Cambodian photojournalist; he was a survivor of the Cambodian Genocide who later emerged as a crusader for justice in Cambodia. Born into a middle-class family, he had the privilege of receiving school education, unlike most of Cambodians. After learning French and English, he started working as an interpreter with the United States military forces. In the middle of the war crisis during the early 1970s, he met Sydney Schanberg, a journalist with whom he struck a lifelong friendship. The two worked together and witnessed the horrors of the Cambodian government's war with the communist regime, Khmer Rouge. But these horrors were later eclipsed by much greater ones that followed when the Khmer Rouge came to power. Majority of foreign reporters were permitted to leave the country but he was held back by the troops of the new regime. He was taken as a prisoner, tortured, and put to work as a farm laborer, in starving conditions of slavery for four years. Later, he attained freedom but returned home only to learn that most of his family had died in the Khmer ‘killing fields’. Concerned about his well-being, he escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand and contacted Schanberg, who helped him in relocating to United States. He spent the rest of his life as a photojournalist, advocating justice for fellow Cambodians. His story has been portrayed in the 1984 Academy Award winning movie ‘The Killing Fields’