This should help clear up any confusion about the real Dith Pran and the actor who played his part in The Killing Fields. (Thanks, Unca Google!)
The portrayal of Dith Pran in "The Killing Fields" won an Oscar for fellow Cambodian Haing Ngor, who had also escaped the violence of the Khmer Rouge. But Ngor escaped the genocide in Cambodia only to be shot to death in this country. He was killed on a street in Los Angeles. Now Dith Pran, who's working in New York as a photographer for The New York Times, wants to make sure people never forget the genocide in Cambodia. He has compiled a collection of personal essays by survivors of the killing fields.
-- from http://www.cambodian.com/interview.htm (transcript of an MSNBC-TV interview with the real Dith Pran)
Dith Pran (born September 27, 1942 ) is a photojournalist best known as a refugee and Cambodian Holocaust survivor and was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields. (He was portrayed in the movie by first time actor Haing S. Ngor, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.)
In 1975, Pran and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the communist Khmer Rouge forces. Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave, but Pran was not permitted to leave the country. When Cambodians were forced to work in forced labor camps, Pran had to endure four years of starvation and torture, before finally escaping to Thailand.
He has been a photojournalist with the New York Times in the United States since 1980. Pran has worked for recognition of the Cambodian Holocaust victims. He received an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998 and is founder and president of The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc.
Dr. Haing S. Ngor ( March 22, 1940 –February 25, 1996 ) was a Cambodian American physician and actor who is best known for winning a 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the movie The Killing Fields, in which he portrayed journalist and refugee Dith Pran in 1970s Cambodia, under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
Ngor himself lived through the Cambodian holocaust, and survived by hiding the fact that he was an obstetrician and gynecologist. As an educated person and a professional, he would have been killed under the harsh regime and purges of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Ngor worked as a doctor in a refugee camp inside Thailand, and left for the United States on August 30, 1980.
In 1988, he wrote Haing Ngor: A Cambodian Odyssey, detailing his life under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In the second edition Survival in the Killing Fields, Roger Warner, Ngor's co-author, adds an epilogue telling the story of Ngor's life after winning the Academy Award.
On February 25, 1996 , Ngor was shot to death outside his apartment in Los Angeles, California, by members of a street gang who demanded the locket around his neck. The locket contained a picture of his late wife; none of the money in his wallet (reportedly a few hundred dollars in cash) was stolen. There was some speculation at the time that the gang members were acting at the behest of Khmer Rouge sympathizers in the U.S., but this was never proven.
Three 19-year-old members of the Oriental Lazy Boyz street gang were arrested and charged with Ngor's murder. They were separately tried and convicted in the Superior Court of Los Angeles. Tak Sun Tan was sentenced to 56 years to life; Indra Lim to 26 years to life; Jason Chan to life without parole. In 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Tak Sun Tan's habeas corpus petition, finding that prosecutors had manipulated the jury's sympathy by presenting false evidence. This decision was reversed and the conviction was ultimately upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in July 2005 .
Ngor survived incredible dangers during his life in Cambodia only to die violently in his adopted homeland, but he told a New York Times reporter after the release of The Killing Fields, "If I die from now on, OK! This film will go on for a hundred years."