Dith Pran, who served as interpreter to the New York Times‘ Sydney Schanberg during the Cambodian genocide under Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, has passed away in New Jersey at the age of 65.
Dith’s relationship with Schanberg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, formed the basis for the Rolland Joffe film The Killing Fields, on the mass graves in the countryside where Pol Pot‘s men disposed of the bodies. In the movie, Haing S. Ngor, a Cambodian doctor-turned-doctor, played Dith Pran and won the Academy Award for his supporting role.
“Dith was a true reporter, a fighter for the truth and for his people,” Schanberg told the Associated Press when announcing his death. “When cancer struck, he fought for his life again. And he did it with the same Buddhist calm and courage and positive spirit that made my brother so special.”
Dith Pran served as a photojournalist for the New York Times upon his entry into the United States, and his theory of photojournalism was: “You have to be a pineapple. You have to have a hundred eyes.”
Read the full obituary: Killing Fields’ survivor Dith Pran dies