Dith Pran

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Dith Pran
File:Dith Pran..jpg
Born (1942-09-27)27 September 1942
Siem Reap, Cambodia
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New Brunswick, New Jersey
Residence Woodbridge, New Jersey
Employer New York Times
Known for The Killing Fields
Partner(s) Sydney Schanberg

Dith Pran (Khmer: ឌិត ប្រន; 27 September 1942 – 30 March 2008) was a Cambodian photojournalist best known as a refugee and survivor of the Cambodian Genocide. He was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields (1984). He was portrayed in the film by first-time actor Haing S. Ngor (1940–1996), who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.

Early life

Pran was born in Siem Reap, Cambodia near Angkor Wat. His father worked as a public works official.[1] He learned French at school and taught himself English.

The United States Army hired him as a translator but after his ties with the United States were severed, Pran worked with a British film crew for the movie Lord Jim and then as a hotel receptionist.[1]


In 1975, Pran and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the Communist Khmer Rouge.[1] Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave the country, but Pran was not.[1] Due to persecution of intellectuals during the genocide, he hid the fact that he was educated or that he knew Americans and pretended to be a taxi driver.[1] When Cambodians were forced to work in labour camps, Pran had to endure four years of starvation and torture before Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge in December 1978.[1] He coined the phrase "killing fields" to refer to the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered during his Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value). escape. His three brothers and one sister were killed in Cambodia.

Pran travelled back to Siem Reap where he learned that 50 members of his family had died.[1] The Vietnamese had made him village chief but he feared they would discover his US ties and escaped to Thailand on 3 October 1979.[1]

Career in the United States

After making his way to the United States, Pran reunited with his friend Schanberg and in 1980 joined his paper, the New York Times, where he worked as a photojournalist. He gained worldwide recognition after the 1984 release of the film The Killing Fields about his experiences under the Khmer Rouge. He campaigned for recognition of the Cambodian genocide victims, especially as founder and president of the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project. He was a recipient of an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998 and the Award of Excellence of the International Center.

Personal life

In 1986, he became a US citizen with his then wife Ser Moeun Dith, whom he later divorced. He then married Kim DePaul but they also divorced.[1]


On 30 March 2008, Pran died, aged 65, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just three months earlier. He was living in Woodbridge, New Jersey.[1][2]


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