Haing S Ngor
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Born in Samrong Young, Cambodia, Ngor was educated to be a surgeon and gynecologist. He was practicing his profession in the capital Phnom Penh in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot took control of the country and founded Democratic Kampuchea. Because of his Chinese origin he had to face the persecution of the government, and he was forced to hide his education and medical skills to avoid the intense hostility of the regime towards the intellectuals and professionals. He was expelled from Phnom Penh, along with a large part of his two million inhabitants, as part of the “Zero Year” socialist experiment of the Khmer Rouge, and was imprisoned in a concentration camp together with his wife My-Huoy, who later died. during childbirth while in captivity. In spite of being a gynecologist, he could not treat his wife, since he needed a cesarean section and when he had performed the operation he would have been exposed, and probably both of them would have been killed.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, Ngor worked as a doctor in a refugee camp in Thailand, and traveled to the United States on August 30, 1980. He never remarried. In 1988 he wrote Haing Ngor: A Cambodian Odyssey, describing his life under the regime of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
On February 26, 1996, Ngor was shot outside his home near downtown Los Angeles, California. Three prominent members of the “Oriental Lazy Boyz,” a gang with a history of theft of purses and jewelry, were blamed for the murder. They were tried together in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, although their respective cases were heard by three different jurors. Prosecutors argued that they had killed Ngor because he voluntarily surrendered a gold Rolex watch, refused to give them a reliquary containing a photo of his deceased wife My-Huoy. The defense lawyers suggested that the murder had political connotations, as it would have been carried out by supporters of the Khmer Rouge; however, they did not present evidence to support their theory. In the end the three gang members were found guilty of the murder.
In 2009 the political background of his death was verified with the statements of a former militant of the Khmer Rouge before the United Nations Organization, where he described the order of his murder for having interpreted “The Screams of Silence”. As proof of this, they had to steal the reliquary that Ngor had on his neck that contained the photo of his dead wife in the concentration camps. The FBI refused to believe this for lack of evidence, thus disrupting this version.
Ngor overcame many risks in his native Cambodia only to die violently in the United States. However, after the premiere of Los critos del silencio he told a reporter “if he came to die from now on, there’s no problem! This movie will last a hundred years”. Dith Pran whom Ngor had played in The Screams of Silence, said about the death of the actor that “He is like a twin with me … He is like a co-messenger and now I am alone”.
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