June 11, 2013

Trying to Find Someone in Laos?

The funny thing about Laos is that the levels of separation are not far and almost everyone knows everyone or they may know your relatives, family or friends.  So relatively speaking it can be quite easy to find or get in touch with someone through a bit of investigating.  Laos is a small country and even Vientiane, I've often described as having a small town feel to it even though Vientiane is quite developed now.

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Lao people generally tend to stay in the same area or home that they grew up in.  With the exception of younger people who move to Vientiane for school or work or those who have moved abroad, most families stay where they have always lived and raised kids at.  And the kids then tend to live and buy homes close to their parents or other family members, usually in the same baan (town/village).  Though this is not always the case, it is in fact quite typical in Laos.

Getting Started
So here are a few my suggestions of what you should have in hand before going there to search for someone.
  • The first thing is to find out which baan they live or lived in. 
  • Knowing their full name and nickname helps. 
  • It's also useful if you could find out any of their parents or relatives names.
  • Any place of previous work could prove helpful as well.

Next Steps
Once you have as much info as possible, you can then go asking around in the last known baan of the person you're looking for.  Additionally, finding out who the head of the baan and speaking to him/her could prove helpful as they usually know who/where most families are in their area.  Further, you should always find the nearest temple.  Lao life generally involves contact with the temple on some level.  The temples become unofficial community centers.  Suffice it to say, the people there usually know who is who along with background details.

Of course with any search there can be difficulties.  Such as, incomplete information to go on, people's memories not being perfect, people may be unwilling to help or quite simply they may not have the info you're looking for.  As with any challenge, you'll need plenty of perseverance and patience.

Story to Share:  Personal Experience of Mine in Trying to Find Someone
When I was in Laos I had to do this a few times trying to find people or places.  One instance that comes to mind was when I visited Laos and I had deliver a gift to someone, keeping in mind I didn't know my way around yet.  The gift was from a family friend in Canada who wanted to send along some money to her father who was quite old.  First thing was to visit the last known baan of where he lived.  I drove there on a motorcycle with one of my cousins.  When we arrived in the vicinity of the village/town I asked the neighbors where he was or where he lived now.  They seemed unsure. Unfortunately the last house he was known to reside was no longer the case.  The search continued.  One person said he was at the temple.  It was on to the local temple.  Those at the temple said that he was no longer a monk there but was now residing with his eldest daughter.  At this point I knew we were getting closer to finding him.  As we drove our motocycle further down the unpaved road, we eventually found the house of where he was residing.  On arrival to the house, I was met by 2 guard dogs and a lady who turned out to be the eldest daughter.  Once I knew it was safe to approach them further, I explained to them who I was and why I was looking for this gentlemen.  They invited me in and I met up with her father.  I explained again who I was to the father and that this gift was from his daughter in Canada.  Mission accomplished.  They seemed really thankful that I came all that way to deliver the gift.

In hindsight, I was surprised I was able to succesfully complete that.  It made me realize the challenge but also the somewhat ease it is to find someone in Laos because on some level everyone knows everyone.

Also worth mentioning is that the internet is becoming a useful resource to finding people even those in Laos.  Although there are no whitepages or 411 directories like there are in western countries to find people (however there are yellow pages to find companies).

-  Submitted by VM
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  1. Hello, I was wondering if you could help me find my friend's sister. Somewhere around 1975, my friend; Thai and the rest of her family, excepting the one sister, had to abruptly leave Vientiane, Laos. Thai's sister name was Ai My Nguyen. The Facebook profile I have created for Thai is listed. Do you have any suggestions? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. TY! https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010199258098

    1. Hi there, we've received your message in Facebook and replied to you privately there as well. Though I'll post reply here too as it might be relevant to others.

      -----------Original Reply:

      Some suggestions (though some of these things you may have done already):

      - On the page you created for Thai, consider posting Thai's picture, family pictures or pictures of Ai My. Also consider using Thai's real name (current and maiden name) and make the profile searchable. This is in case she or her children try to find her on there using those names and with a picture it'll help to identify her.

      - If you know where in Vientiane she last lived, it's plausible she may have remained in the same town or village. It would be worth it to visit the area, if possible. Visit the old house or ask the neighbors questions or visit the nearest temple to see if she was a regular attendee.

      - Perhaps contact the Vietnamese community in Vientiane.

      - There's also the possibility that she may have left Laos at some point after she was separated from the family. If that is the case, try using the online whitepages websites of countries that were taking in southeast Asian immigrants at the time (including USA, France, Australia, Canada, etc.) to search for her name.

      - Look for her on Facebook.

      Nguyen is a very popular last name which makes it all the more challenging on top of the fact that so many years have passed. But don't give up! Try using some of the suggestions. I hope it helps. Best of luck to you!

  2. Hi there,
    Writing you from Ukraine. My friend, 30yo woman asked me to find her father from Laos. He has left her mother after she was born. So my friend never seen him, but know his name. Actually I find him in web already (even phone number), but didn't contact him for now. He is a professor in University of Laos. For sure he has a family, and I am afraid he'll not accept her.
    So could you advice me how to connect them in better way. Maybe you have TV-shows that help to find relatives as we have? Or some organizations that helps to find relatives officially, etc.
    Thanks for any advice

    1. Unfortunately, there are no shows nor organizations to help with that in Laos. To be frank, you don't need those 2 options. You already have the contact info of the father. And if you're friend and her mother are 100% certain that they have the right person, then I would simply recommend that they make contact and send photos along to him so he could see. Beyond that, it would be a bit of waiting game to see if he would respond.

      There is always that fear or possibility of rejection but give him the benefit of the doubt and contact him. Don't let fear stand in the way because whether he answers or not, at least your friend will no longer wonder about "what if".

      Also even if he has an existing family now, it does not necessarily mean he will reject her.

      Best of luck to your friend.

  3. Hi can someone help me find an address for the person by the name of kaushoua lor phone number 856-20-9175-8916

    1. Hi Cindy, not sure we can help on that. Perhaps one of our readers who see's this may have some suggestions. Best of luck to you though.

  4. Hello..I would like to find family I never meet..all I know is last name of minakhom please help thank you.

    1. We sympathize with your search. All of our suggestions are in the post and also in the comments here. We encourage you to continue to share your search to others and make it public. The more people who see or hear of your story, the more likelihood that someone may recognize the name. Start a blog or Facebook page to promote your search, perhaps?

      Also, try to find out what city and what village your family came from. From there try to find relatives, family friends, or others who may have lived in that same area.

      Best wishes to you in your search.

  5. Can u help me find family in laos I never meet them .last name of minakhom .thank you

  6. Hello - I am trying to find my biological parents and sibling(s) that I may or may not have.

    I don’t have a lot of information other than I was adopted to a Hmong family between 1985-1988 and came to United Sates in 1989 and resided in Montana.

    1. I have some sort of burn marks (3 dots on my chest like a triangle), which I am assuming it was a ritual or something but have no idea

    2. I have a distinct birthmark on my outer left eye (2 small brown spots adjacent to each other)

    3. My adopted parents said we lived in the red land (not sure what that is)

    4. My adopted parents showed me a picture of my parents, but I was like 7 yrs old and don’t remember what happened to that. However, the picture was my parents standing next to each other in front of a fridge with my sister (don’t remember).

    I know this is very minimal, but this is all I have. Give or take I am making assumption that they are between 55-65 years old as I am 35.

    Given the information I hope someone out there can help.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Boonie, we sympathize with your search.

      To be frank, your adopted family must have more information. In the past in Laos, adoptions were often quite informal so likely there's little documentation that exists. However even so, your adoptive family must know the circumstances surrounding your adoption. Perhaps the name of your biological family, the hospital, village, city, refugee camp (if applicable), names of anyone who may have been involved with your adoption, etc.

      There is another set of circumstances that we've heard of. It doesn't necessarily mean that it applies to your situation, but it is worth mentioning. Boys were often sought after for adoption by parents wanting a son.

      As we've mentioned in the post and in the comments, try to make your search as open and public as you can. The more people who hear your story, the greater the chance of someone who might might recognize details in it.

      We wish you success in your search.

  7. Yes, you are correct as my adopted parents wanted a son therefore, they adopted me and I don’t know the circumstances.

    I don’t know where to start?

    Both my adopted parents are deceased and I am unable to get any further information. I even asked current family members and they know nothing.

    Is there a Lao community site in Laos that can be recommended?

    1. Just to clarify, when I say that parents sought out male children to adopt, I mean they would offer money to the biological parents. In these circumstances the details surrounding the adoption would be murky and informal.

      I am sorry to hear of the death of your adoptive parents. This would make things even more difficult in finding out real details.

      I would suggest speaking to any of your adoptive parent's relatives and friends in the Lao Hmong community as the answers may be within the community itself.

      Your adoptive parents would have discussed your adoption and possibly where you originally came from with one of them. There are others who would have arrived to America at around the same time as you. You need to ask around that community. Ask if there are others who were in a given camp or village at the same time. Also, find out if an organization was involved with your immigration or adoption. Was it UNHCR, church group, NGO, or relatives? Ask around if anyone recognizes either your biological or adoptive parents names.

      There's no specific Lao community site devoted specifically to finding lost loved ones that we know. But I would encourage you to make your search as public and open as possible. Perhaps on Facebook as we know there are a lot of Lao users of Facebook. Specifically, if you have any pictures, names, dates and locations. Put it all out there. Someone is bound to recognize some or all of those details.

  8. For any Lao person who is searching for long lost loved ones in Laos or abroad, we would be more than happy to do a blog post here and a Facebook post for you.

    Please be sure to send as much details as you are comfortable in sharing publicly including names, dates, locations, photos, and background story regarding who you're trying to find. You can contact us here on the blog, Facebook or Instagram.

    We'll help you spread the word of your search as best as we can.

  9. Hello! I am trying to trace my daughter's father's family. Norinh Inthonepradith was born Feb 28, 1976 in Vientiane, Laos to parent's Khamphoui and Khounmy Inthonepradith. The move to Minnesota, USA late 1979. Both have passed now and trying to trace family for my daughter and add to the family tree. Thank you!

    1. If someone reading this recognizes the name, hopefully they'll comment! Best wishes.

  10. Hello, I´m here for my friend Martina Lampe from Germany. She´s looking for her childhoodlove. His name is Outhayvanh Sengmougdha
    (birthday 21.10.1964). He was from Thakhek (grew up there). He studied in the GDR from 1981 until 1983, where he met my friend and they were very closed at this times. Then he had return to Laos. They had no possibilities to stay in contact longer. His friends in GDR-times were: Soulith Phouthatham and Phomma Chanthavong. I tried to contact them at Facebook, but maybe the messages are in the spambox? My friend knows, that Outhay married in the early 90s. Now, 40 years later, she would really like to know, how Outhay is. Maybe someone knows him or can give good advice? Thank you for reading.