Tuesday, 8 April 2008


'SURELY EXTRAORDINARY': Sydney Schanberg, former Times colleague of Dith Pran, pays tribute to his friend yesterday at theSouth Plainfield, NJ, funeral of the man who endured unspeakablehorrors in Cambodia.

New York Post


April 7, 2008 -- Dith Pran, the diminutive photojournalist whose barbaric enslavement in Cambodia was made into the award-winning film "The Killing Fields," was remembered yesterday as a man who embodied "extreme bravery."

"There are special human beings - Pran was one of them - who are not perfect, not saintly, but are surely extraordinary," Sydney Schanberg, his friend and former colleague at The New York Times, said at Dith's funeral in South Plainfield, NJ.

More than 400 people - some colleagues wearing photographers' vests like Dith's trademark one - filled the South Plainfield Funeral Home to take part in a Buddhist service for the journalist, who died March 30 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 65.

Dith was diagnosed with the illness three months ago, and Schanberg said that when he visited his friend in the hospital, the two discussed the possibility of life after death.

"Pran thought for a couple of seconds and said, 'I'll send you my dreams,' " Schanberg recalled.
"I'll send you mine," Schanberg said he replied.

'"Pran is still with us," the former correspondent said. "I believe Pran is still with us."

Dith was working as an interpreter and assistant to Schanberg, who was covering Cambodia for the Times in the 1970s, when the country was taken over by Khmer Rouge revolutionaries who installed a murderous regime.

Schanberg managed to escape - and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting - but was forced to leave his friend behind.

Dith - Cambodian first and last names are often reversed - remained in the war-ravaged country for 41/2 years, working in the countryside as a virtual slave and surviving on a diet of rats, snails and insects. He coined the phrase "killing fields" to describe the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains he saw.

After leaving Cambodia, Dith moved to the United States and became a photographer for the Times.

His harrowing story became the subject of the famed 1984 film "The Killing Fields."

At the service, Schanberg recalled how Dith argued for two hours to stop Khmer Rouge soldiers from killing Schanberg and two other journalists.

"He risked his own life to save ours," Schanberg said, adding that his friend's life was the definition of "extreme bravery."

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