Dith Pran was a Cambodian photojournalist who was born on September 27, 1942, in the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Pran went to the local school and learned French, however he learned English on his own. When he finished high school in 1960, he went to work for the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Cambodia as an interpreter. Throughout the war, Pran worked with a British film crew and at a hotel near Angkor Wat., as a guide and interpreter for New York Times reporters in the area, including Sydney Schanberg, who had come to Phnom Penh in 1972. The two became close friends, and by 1973 Pran worked only with Schanberg. With the war escalating in 1975, Pran helped his family escape on a U.S. military truck, but stayed behind to help Schanberg report the story of the Khmer Rouge takeover.
He suffered four years of abusive treatment after the Communist Khmer Rouge forces took over his country that year. Pran fortunately escaped and became an advocate for justice in Cambodia. His story was portrayed in the 1984 movie The Killing Fields. Also, in 1986, Schanberg helped Pran move to the U.S. and reunited him with his family. The New York Times gave him a job as a photojournalist, and Pran became a U.S. citizen that year.
He and his wife operate the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, which maintains a photographic record on the Internet to assist Cambodians in finding missing family members. Pran interviewed twenty-nine people who had suffered during the takeover and published the results in 1997 as Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors. For Pran, the ghosts of Cambodia remain, and the memories are “Still alive to me day and night,” he said in an online interview at The Site. “It’s unbelievable what [the Khmer Rouge] did to the Cambodian people.”