By Douglas Martin

March 31, International Herald Tribune

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people's rights, died in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which had spread, said his friend Sydney Schanberg.

Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

He had been a journalistic partner of Schanberg, a Times correspondent assigned to Southeast Asia. He translated, took notes and pictures, and helped Schanberg maneuver in a fast-changing milieu. With the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Schanberg was forced from the country, and Dith became a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists.

Schanberg wrote about Dith in newspaper articles and in The New York Times Magazine, in a 1980 cover article titled "The Death and Life of Dith Pran." (A book by the same title appeared in 1985.) The story became the basis of the movie "The Killing Fields."The film, directed by Roland Joffé, portrayed Schanberg, played by Sam Waterston, arranging for Dith's wife and children to be evacuated from Phnom Penh as danger mounted. Dith, portrayed by Dr. Haing S. Ngor (who won an Academy Award as best supporting actor), insisted on staying in Cambodia with Schanberg to keep reporting the news.

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photo: In 1980, Dith became a photographer for The Times, where he was noted for his imaginative pictures of city scenes and news events (Barton Silverman/The New York Times)