Remembering Dith Pran

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has posted a moving Appeal to the Chinese People on his Web site that begins

Today, I extend heartfelt greetings to my Chinese brothers and sisters around the world, particularly to those in the People’s Republic of China. In the light of the recent developments in Tibet, I would like to share with you my thoughts concerning relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples, and make a personal appeal to all of you.

Another staged tour of Tibet took place over the weekend, this time with carefully placed Tibetans and, from some reports, fake monks in the monasteries. No independent questions were allowed.

Today, Fiction Daily remembers Dith Pran, who died Sunday.

Most people know Pran from the film “The Killing Fields,” which told the story of what happened to him when the U.S. left Cambodia. He worked with N.Y. Times reporter Sydney Shanberg and they became as brothers.

In 1979, after Pran lived four years under the Khmer Rouge, working as a rice farmer, sometimes eating as little as a mouthful of rice in a day, he reached the border with Thailand.

In  an interview last week, Shanberg said Pran was constantly moved by a deep desire to tell the stories of what happened. When he at last reached Thailand, he wanted to stay and tell refugees’ stories, until Shanberg persuaded him to return to the U.S.

Pran was a photographer. I saw one of his prints at a friend’s house once and it was a beautiful image. A man who felt deeply for the world, who saw so much suffering.

In college, in a political science course on Asia and the Far East, I wrote a research paper on Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. The year was 1980, and very little information was available. I remember trying to navigate through the reports, found mostly in magazines, from Reader’s Digest, Time to more consequential reports, to determine just what happened in Cambodia. In the end, my professor wrote this comment: “Nice job of tightrope walking.” I remember feeling that I still had very little idea what really happened there, but that I needed to understand.

“The Killing Fields” was released in 1984. It also featured Spalding Gray, who died in 2004. The documentary by Jonathan Demme of Spalding’s one-man show about his experiences making the film, “Swimming to Cambodia,” is priceless.

It is estimated that two million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge, which ended with an invasion by Vietnam in 1979.

Photo of Mr. Dith, 2006. Michael Nagle/Getty Images

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