22 March 2013

Cambodia: This Day in History

22nd March, 1940

On this day in 1940, actor Haing Somnang Ngor was born in Samrong Yong, Cambodia.

A doctor of medicine and later a medical officer in the Cambodian army, Haing Somnang Ngor was captured, tortured and imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge. 

During this time Ngor was unable to treat his wife-she needed a Cesarean section- as Pol Pot's henchmen would surely have killed him (and his wife and baby) had they known he was a doctor.

His wife My-Houy died during the birth as did the child.

After a spell in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodia border Haing Ngor finally made his way to the United States.

It was here that Ngor gained fame as an actor when he was cast as journalist Dith Pran in the 1984 film 'The Killing Fields.' Although devoid of acting experience Ngor starred in the role and picked up a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

"I wanted to show the world how deep starvation is in Cambodia how many people die under communist regime. My heart is satisfied. I have done something perfect," he upon the film's release.

This was the height of his acting career and although he did have small parts in other movies Ngor began to spend more time working on human rights and refugee issues.

Ngor was shot and killed outside of his home in Chinatown, Los Angeles on February 25, 1996. Many speculated that the killing was the work of revenge-seeking Khmer Rouge cadre. However. three members of a street gang were convicted of his murder.

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