Searching for a lost father

I’m trying to help a friend find her father whom she’s never met. I don’t really know where to begin but I figured someone here must know how to go about it.

His name is Jean Michel Helari, he was a professor at the University of Kampong Cham in Cambodia in the 60’s. He and my friend’s mother met either late 1968 or early 1969. Being French, he was forced to leave Cambodia during the political riots before my friend’s birth (which occurred on April 1st, 1971 in Phnom Phenn in a small Chinese hospital, the name of which her mother is uncertain). Her father’s best friend was at the hospital at his request with money to pay the doctors. We don’t know his full name, but we do know his nickname was Breene (spelling approximate).

Her father did write her mother (Simontha Koy-Mel) after fleeing the country, but these letters were taken in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge and my friend and her family were forced into concentration camps where they were unable to contact anyone for several years.

In 1979, what was left of the family (a number of members were executed, her grandfather, for one) were freed from the camps and they went to Thailand. Her mother saw Breene getting on a bus as they were getting off, but was unable to get his attention. That was the last she saw of him.

Her mother believes she remembers the address she used to write to him at, but either she is mistaken or he has moved, as letters she sends now are returned “address unknown”.
My friend has already emailed every embassy she could find an address to, but only one responded. A woman named Florence Tavard said a man named Alain Daniel may have known her father and have an email address to reach him (it’s unknown whether it was a personal address or a business address or either, but her father was supposed to have access to it). She contacted Daniel, whom forwarded her message to the address he knew, but there was no reply.

She doesn’t know if the message failed to get through, or if it did and her father refused to answer, or if the address went to someone else in his family and they never told him of it (it’s believed that years later he married and started another family in France, and they may not want to “rock the boat”, so to speak).

She doesn’t want to disturb his family or get anything from him, she only wants to know who is is and have a chance to meet him.
That’s everything known and tried thus far. She did look into hiring a detective to locate an address, but she doesn’t have a tremendous amount of money. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

I would think that French private detective should be able to track him down fairly quickly. Given that he would probably be in his 70’s by now he is likely to be retired or may have passed away. If she knows his academic speciality, contacting some older French academics in the same field would probably yield his location up with a few phone calls.

I’m wondering if there’s a Who’s Who in French Professorship or something.

Good luck in your search. Keep the dopers informed.


I found him.

:slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

(And welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards!)

WOW Walloon. That was brilliant dude. I was just about to post and suggest something like the Salvation Army who do help people like adoptees and others find their families, but you took all the hard work away!!

Brilliant. Absolutely bloody brilliant!!


Good Job Walloon! I don’t care what the Flems say about you, you’re the man!

Sometimes, it amazes me how easily the SDMB can find a good answer to any random question that comes our way.

So, Dusty, is that, indeed, the right man?

Dusty, I notice on Hilary’s bibliography of published articles that there is a gap between 1968 and 1978. You say that your friend’s mother met your friend’s father when he was teaching in Cambodia in either late 1968 or early 1969.

What news!

Walloon, I am consistently impressed by your intelligence and behaviour.


Yes, I’m almost certain that’s him. I emailed him and he confirmed that he was a professor at the University of Kampong Cham between 1968 and 1970. Even just by his picture, his nose, cheekbones, and chin are identical to Chanda’s (her picture, his picture). I’ll let you know what happens, but first I’ve got to tell her.

This has to be the first Dope thread to give me chills up and down my spine.

Dusty, please tell us what happens . . .

Walloon–that deserves a personal congrats from Unca Cecil!


I just e-mailed the Perfect Master Himself about this.

You deserved a great big pat onna back, Wallooon! :slight_smile:

Dusty, any news you can share with us? If you prefer, you can e-mail me privately, via the button below.