Richard Dudman, Reporter at Center of History’s Churn, Dies at 99

His taste for adventure occasionally led him down dangerous roads. In 1970, he and two colleagues, Elizabeth Pond of The Christian Science Monitor and Michael Morrow of Dispatch News Service International, tried to drive from Saigon to Phnom Penh to report on the developing covert war in Cambodia.

At a roadblock halfway between the border and Phnom Penh, three Vietcong fighters, brandishing assault rifles, emerged from the trees along the road and took the reporters captive, convinced that they were C.I.A. spies. Mr. Dudman turned to his colleagues and said, “If we get out of this alive, we’ll have a hell of a good story.”

A coolheaded Vietnamese general, Bay Cao, eventually intervened and ensured better treatment of the three prisoners — on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, they enjoyed a feast of roast dog. After six weeks, Mr. Dudman and his colleagues were taken to a road and left to hitchhike back to Saigon. Mr. Dudman described his ordeal in “Forty Days With the Enemy,” published in 1971.

Cambodia had not finished with him. In 1978, he and Elizabeth Becker of The Washington Post and Malcolm Caldwell, a leftist Scottish economist, secured a meeting with Pol Pot, becoming the first Western writers to travel through Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1974.

The hoped-for interview never materialized. After a handshake that Mr. Dudman found unnerving — Pol Pot had delicate, tapering fingers and soft skin — the dictator held court.

“He spoke in a quiet monotone as we sweltered in tropical sunshine that flooded the room and brushed away the flies that buzzed around the orange juice,” Mr. Dudman wrote in The Post-Dispatch in 2015. “He spoke in Cambodian, Foreign Minister Ieng Sary put the Cambodian into French, and another official translated into English. Before getting to our questions, Pol Pot launched into a diatribe against the Vietnamese.”

He added, “We tried to break in with questions, but he ignored them and rolled right on.”

Mr. Dudman did manage to take one of the few known photographs of Pol Pot.

The following night, Mr. Dudman heard gunshots in the guesthouse where he and his colleagues were staying. Stepping out into the hallway, he faced an attacker, who began shooting at him with a pistol. Mr. Dudman dashed back into his room, dodging bullets, and hid behind his bed.

Photo

Mr. Dudman in 2015.

Credit

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