Titony Dith & Tan Ser In Cambodia in 2010
From 1972 until 1975 Dith Pran worked as a 'fixer' with NY Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg in Cambodia. In 1975 Pran's family was evacuated before the fall of Phnom Penh, while Sydney & Pran stayed behind to cover the take over by the Khmer Rouge. After a few days it became obvious that the take over would not be peaceful, and the Khmer Rouge ordered all foreign journalists to leave Cambodia, but Pran was unable to get out.
From 1975 until 1979 it is estimated that 1.4 - 2.7 † million Cambodians lost their lives. The Khmer Rouge first emptied the cities and forced everyone into the countryside, then started killing anyone who was educated, or part of the former government, or had anything to do with foreign governments or organizations.
Pran lived through the Cambodian Genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime. He vowed that if he survived, he would tell the world about the genocide and what he called ‘the killing fields’. In 1979 Pran escaped to Thailand and Sydney Schanberg was able to bring him to the United States. Pran become a staff photographer for the NY Times. Sydney wrote the article about Dith Pran's years living under the murderous Khmer Rouge, which was eventually made into the 1984 movie The Killing Fields.
Tan Ser, Pran’s (brother-in-law) lived through the genocide as well and escaped to Thailand in 1981. He lived alongside Dith Pran for four years until Dith Pran escaped into Thailand in 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia.
Two of Dith Pran’s children Titony and Titonath got together with David (Sydney’s nephew) and decided to start a foundation to help the Cambodian people advance their education in response to actions of the Khmer Rouge who killed anyone who they believed had been educated.
Titony, Tan Ser, & David traveled to Cambodia in 2010 and in an unlikely visit with Aki Ra to photograph and film him removing land mines, got involved with his Rural Schools Program. He and Bill Morse facilitate the building of primary and secondary schools in rural areas and continue to donate supplies and fund teachers when needed. They also have a school for students adjacent to the Land Mine Museum, and Jill Morse (Bill's wife) teaches there. The children at the museum range in age between 6 and 21 years old. They come from rural areas of Cambodia because they orphaned, abandoned, or neglected - some are victims of Polio and others did not have access to education in their home villages.
Ruben Rassi & David visited Cambodia in 2015 to do more filming of Aki Ra working in the land mine fields. They also visited a number of Rural schools to see the work that Aki Ra, Bill & Jill Morse are doing to help educate Cambodia's youth.