Saturday, April 18, 2009

PM seeks global aid for Agent Orange lawsuit



Viet Nam hoped to receive global public support in its lawsuit to protect Agent Orange victims, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told William Bourdon, representative of the International Federation of Human Rights League.

Bourdon is in Viet Nam to investigate the legacy caused by Agent Orange.

At the reception yesterday, Dung thanked the organisation for supporting Vietnamese AO victims.

Agent Orange had left serious consequences for millions of Vietnamese people and laid a socio-economic burden on the country, he said.

Viet Nam’s policy was to move on from the past and look to a future in which Viet Nam and the US could co-operate and develop, but also be responsible in overcoming the legacy of the war.

Dung referred to the US’s effort in helping find the remains of soldiers missing in action and clearing land mines. However, the US hadn’t paid attention to surmounting the consequences of AO, he said.

Vietnamese AO victims had filed a lawsuit against American chemical companies but did not receive justice from the American courts; Vietnamese people were discontent with the sentence, he said.

The Vietnamese Government and people would like to thank people and organisations across the world for their support during the law suit, he added.

Dung said he hoped the delegation would learn the truth and raise a loud voice to tell people around the world about the heavy legacy that Vietnamese AO sufferers had to bear.

More importantly, the delegation would see the brutality of the war and join hands to prevent future wars and build a peaceful world, he said.

Bourdon said he was honoured to collect documents to present at the democracy court to be held in Paris next month.

Regarding the possibility of bringing the case to a Vietnamese court, he said a firm legal base must be prepared before the lawsuit could be set up because there were many complicated legal issues.

Otherwise, the American court would oppose the sentence and prevent its execution if the Vietnamese court gave a sentence that benefited the victims.

The Prime Minister said he wished the experts and international friends would exchange ideas with Vietnamese lawyers to find suitable solutions.


Also in Ha Noi yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen said Viet Nam would survey Agent Orange-dioxin victims throughout the country so as to provide them with better support.

The survey was in response to a Government request that included the supply of the criteria needed to define who should be entitled to benefit from new assistance policies.

Speaking on-line with representatives of AO-dioxin victims, the minister said the Party and the State had made many efforts to overcome the consequences of the defoliants sprayed on Viet Nam during the American War.

Many policies and legal documents had been issued to help improve the physical and mental state of the victims and their families, he said.

The Government spent more than VND780 billion last year for AO victims who participated in the war and their children.

In addition to a monthly allowance, the victims were provided with free health insurance, health checks, treatment and rehabilitation.

Their children enjoyed priorities in education and training.

"However, the State had yet to devise policies for people who were exposed to AO-dioxin during the war and those who have been living and working in the contaminated areas," he said.

Hundreds of questions about the policies for AO victims were submitted for the on-line session and almost all focused on the need to raise allowance for the victims and their grandchildren and the need for a preferential policy for grandchildren.

Many people said the response to dioxin in blood should be the same as for injured with an allowance equal to that for invalids paid.

Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said she would study and consider raising the allowance paid to the victims of AO-dioxin to equal that paid to other invalids.

Viet Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange-Dioxin (VAVA) standing member Mai The Chinh said almost 40 years had elapsed since the end of the war but the devastating effects of the defoliants were still present in the damage to the environment and people’s health.

"Severe genetic diseases have been responsible for various types of disabilities, constant physical and mental pain as well as lingering social consequences," she said.

Viet Nam has about 4.8 million Agent Orange-dioxin victims, the US magazine Nature reported in 2003.


Agent Orange Fact Sheet

PDF version

Agent Orange: The Legacy of War.

Legendary Magnum photojournalist Philip Jones Griffiths returns to Vietnam to witness the continuing impact of Agent Orange.

An 11-minute video by Lisa Miller.
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