Dith Pran in Tearful Reunion Relatives
SITE 2 REFUGEE CAMP, Thailand (AP) _ Dith Pran, whose escape from Cambodia during the murderous Khmer Rouge regime was told in the film ″The Killing Fields,″ had a tearful reunion Monday with relatives he left behind.
Dith, 47, met with two sisters-in-law he had not seen since July 1979, when he left another refugee camp in Thailand to live in the United States. It was his first return visit to the border.
″The Killing Fields″ tells the story of how Dith, an assistant to former New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg, survived the rule of the Khmer Rouge, the radical Communist group that killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians between 1975 and 1978.
Dith escaped from Cambodia after the Vietnamese invasion which ousted the Khmer Rouge in late 1978. He reached Thailand only after a hazardous trek through rice fields filled with the bones of the regime’s victims.
Dith was accompanied at the Site 2 refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border by Haing Ngor, who portrayed Dith in ″The Killing Fields,″ and David Hawk, of the Cambodian Documentation Center in New York. Noor also is a Cambodian who escaped the Khmer Rouge.
Dith plans a week-long visit to Phnom Penh at the invitation of Cambodian Premier Hun Sen. The invitation came when Haing and Hawk met Hun Sen at the ongoing Paris conference on Cambodia earlier this month.
Ten years on, a quarter of a million Cambodians still live in refugee camps in Thailand controlled by one of three guerrilla factions resisting Hun Sen’s Vietnamese-backed government. The Khmer Rouge is the strongest of these.
Vietnam has pledged to withdraw all its troops by Sept. 26. Many, including Dith, fear the Khmer Rouge will make another bid for power.
Hawk said the Cambodian Documentation Center, set up 10 years ago to bring the Khmer Rouge to trial for war crimes, is concerned about the repatriation of refugees should a negotiated settlement be achieved in Paris.
″We are going there looking at the prospects and provisions to prevent the return to power of the Khmer Rouge ... and the prospects of safe voluntary repatriation of Cambodian refugees from Thailand,″ he said.
Dith said the only way to prevent the Khmer Rouge from returning to power was to remove their senior leaders. The organization’s leadership hierachy - which includes a role for Pol Pot, the man who presided over their rule - remains intact.
″If you cut the head off a chicken, it is easy to deal with the body. We must not include any of the Khmer Rouge leaders,″ he said. ″We must cut the head off the Khmer Rouge chicken.″
Dith said Cambodian refugees in Thailand were ″trapped between the East and the West.″
″They want to go to the West but the West says no, they want to go to the East, to Cambodia, but they cannot,″ he said.