Veteran Post reporter Thet Sambath yesterday won a prestigious international journalism award for his ground-breaking documentary Enemies of the People, which unearthed new truths about the Khmer Rouge.
The International Centre for Journalists called Thet Sambath’s film “arguably the most important documentary about the Khmer Rouge” in a statement released yesterday announcing the winners of the 2011 Knight International Journalism Award.
Two Mexican reporters – Rocío Idalia Gallegos Rodríguez and Sandra Rodríguez Nieto – who investigated violent drug cartels also earned the prize.
The award “recognises media professionals worldwide who have taken bold steps to keep citizens informed despite great obstacles”.
The winners, who were nominated by seasoned journalists and Knight International Journalism Fellows, have been invited to a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Theth Sambath said yesterday he was surprised and honoured by the award’s recognition for his work.
“I never believed I would get this award,” he said.
“Before, I felt disappointed when I worked for many years – my story did not get out.”
Thet Sambath, who lost his parents and brother during the rule of Pol Pot, embarked on a decade-long quest to learn how his family, and perhaps as many as two million other Cambodians, died.
He said it took him four or five years before he earned the trust of Khmer Rouge Brother No. 2 Nuon Chea, who later gave an extraordinary confession on film.
Thet Sambath turned his interviews with Nuon Chea and lower-level cadres into a documentary with British filmmaker Rob Lemkin.
The film was short-listed for an Oscar this year, and won the Special Jury Prize for World Documentary at the 2010 Sundance festival.
Enemies of the People would be released on DVD in the United States on October 1, Thet Sambath said.
He is now working with Lemkin on a sequel, which he hopes will be finished at the end of 2012.