Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Dith Pran, 1943-2008


Dith Pran, the former New York Times photojournalist known for his coverage of Cambodia in the 1970s, died March 30 at age 65 from pancreatic cancer.

The story of Cambodian-born Pran is chronicled in the Academy Award-winning 1984 movie "The Killing Fields."

Having taught himself English, he worked as a translator for the U.S. Military Assistance Command until 1965, when Cambodia severed ties with the United States. In the early 1970s, as Cambodia descended into civil war, Pran served as an interpreter for foreign journalists.

During this time he met lifelong friend and colleague Sydney H. Schanberg, a New York Times journalist. Working with Schanberg, he taught himself photography, and the two worked closely together covering the civil war.

When the Khmer Rouge gained control in 1975 and foreign media were expelled, Pran was relocated to a work camp, where he faced death almost daily, both from starvation and from the Khmer Rouge, among whom he pretended to be poorly educated to avoid persecution.

In 1978, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, Pran escaped to Thailand and later arrived in the United States, becoming a citizen in 1986. In this country, he worked to raise awareness of the Cambodian genocide. He worked for The New York Times from 1986 to 2007.