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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Death and Life of Dith Pran

Dith Pran, photojournalist and survivor of the Cambodian Holocaust, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. Before the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Mr. Dith worked with his friend, New York Times Correspondent, Sydney H. Schanberg, to report on the horrors commited by the regime of the Khmer Rouge. After the fall of Phnom Penh Mr. Schanberg was forced to leave the country and Mr. Dith was subsequently imprisoned. Follow this link to see a slide show that includes Dith's photographs of Cambodia as well as his later photographs for the Times. Mr. Dith took the photograph above for the Times in 1974.

If you're interested in reading about theexperiences of the Cambodian people under the communist regime we have several books on the subject. The bestselling memoir by Loung Ung, "First They Killed My Father: a daughter of cambodia remembers" follows the dramatic changes in Ung's life after her family fled Pol Pot's army. She tells the story of her life as a child soldier and her sibling's experiences in labor camps. 

Haing Ngor, author of "Survival In the Killing Fields," is best known for his portrayal of Dith Pran in the movie, The Killing Fields. In his book, Ngor channels the same powerful energy he exhibited in his Academy Award winning performance as Mr. Dith, but instead, "Survival In the Killing Fields" recounts his own experience as a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Ngor says, "Nothing has shaped my life as much as surviving the Pol Pot regime. I am a survivor of the Cambodian holocaust. That's who I am."

If you're interested in the more recent situation in Cambodia I highly recommend the book, "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures." Though the title is a poor one, the book is not only engaging, but also enlightening in regards to international issues. "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures" chronicles the daily life and work of three young United Nations peacekeepers as they travel from one country to the next following international crises... it's a story of living on the edge and experiencing life through many different cultures, peoples and extreme scenarios and there is no question that it will take you away from the trivial pursuits of your day.