Mixed children who were not abandoned by their French fathers, or “recognised”, were considered fully fledged French citizens from the start, unlike those left to be raised by their mothers.
Many became completely French, severing any ties they had to Cambodia.
One case from the archives shows a métis girl living in France whose mother, Nguyen Thi Hai of Svay Rieng province, asked for her to come back home in 1928.
Julie Hélène Begue’s father had five children with Thi Hai, taking three of them to France when he suddenly died in 1919.
Another child died in France as well. But instead of the two remaining children being sent back to their mother, Julie and her brother Marcel were placed in two different orphanages around the city of Grenoble.
Thi Hai only realised her children were being raised in orphanages and not with their French family much later, requesting in 1928 that they be sent back to Indochina.
But by then, 18-year-old Julie had spent most of her life in France, and felt no connection to her mother’s heritage.
On July 8, 1928, Julie wrote to the Agence Générale des Colonies that she would not be coming back.
“I have refused a ticket to Indochina because I did not ask for it and do not need it. Daughter of a French father, and French myself, I count on staying in France as was the wish of my father. Forcing me to go to Indochina would not be a repatriation but an unacceptable exile.”