Monday, 31 March 2008

Dith Pran, Killing Fields survivor, dead at 65

by Frank James

One of the most haunting movies many of us have ever watched was "The Killing Fields," the story of the Cambodian genocide as witnessed by photojournalist Dith Pran who survived those hellish years to work for the New York Times.

That movie was so powerful and painful it stayed with many of us for nearly a quarter of a century.

And that meant that in an almost mystical way, Dith was with us too, even with those of us who never had the opportunity to meet him.

Word comes today that Dith has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 65. So he no longer walks among the living.

It is sad that he is gone. But at least we are comforted by knowing that his death came not at the hands of the murderous Khmer Rouge but of nature's killing field.

There is some satisfaction that in surviving some of the worst human evil imaginable, he was able to continue his career as a journalist and to raise awareness about genocide.

Over the years, there was always a special fascination for many of us when we saw a photo in the NYT that Dith had taken. It could be a picture of something relatively run of the mill, of a person in a Times profile, or of some everyday event.

But the fact that it was a Dith photo, that you were seeing something through Dith's eyes, a man who once walked among the dead, was once given up for dead himself, always made any photo of his something noteworthy, at least to me.

Dith may be gone now, but he is still with us. We have his photos. And we will always carry with us his remarkable story, as told by "The Killing Fields."

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