April 30, 2008

Senate Passes Whitehouse-Reed Resolution Honoring Dith Pran

Cambodian Human Rights Advocate's Story Inspired the Film "The Killing Fields"

Washington, D.C. – The Senate has passed a resolution authored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) honoring the life of Dith Pran, the Cambodian photojournalist and human rights advocate whose heroism during the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime was documented in the Academy Award-winning 1984 film “The Killing Fields.” Dith passed away on March 30th after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The resolution, S.Res.515, passed last evening by unanimous consent.

“From his efforts to help foreign journalists escape from a collapsing Cambodia, to his own struggle to escape the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields, to his tireless work on behalf of genocide victims worldwide, Dith Pran showed a never ending commitment to human rights and dignity,” said Whitehouse. “On behalf of Rhode Island’s Cambodian community, I’m proud that the Senate has honored Dith Pran, and I hope this resolution will help his message endure.”

“I am pleased that the Senate passed this resolution to help commemorate the life and work of Dith Pran,” said Reed. “Mr. Dith’s work as an advocate for human rights and voice for those who were killed during the Cambodian genocide will continue to have an impact for generations to come.”

As many fled Cambodia during the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, Dith Pran remained in the country to help ensure that news of the events there reached the outside world. Captured by the Khmer Rouge, he endured forced labor and beatings for four years until his escape in 1979. He coined the term “the killing fields” to describe the mass graveyards he witnessed during his 40-mile journey across the Cambodian border to a refugee camp in Thailand. He reached the United States in 1980, and later founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project to educate individuals around the world of the horrors he survived.

The resolution states that: “(1) Dith Pran is a modern day hero and an exemplar of what it means to be a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the world; (2) the United States owes a debt of gratitude to Dith Pran for his tireless work to prevent genocide and violations of fundamental human rights; and (3) teachers throughout the United States should spread Dith Pran’s message by educating their students about his life, the genocide in Cambodia, and the collective responsibility of all people to prevent modern-day atrocities and human rights abuses.”

Cosponsors of the resolution include Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

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