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Monday, August 15, 2005

The US cannot ignore grief of Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

Vietnam News Agency (August 15 2005)

Ha Noi (VNA) - Thirteen years have passed since the end of the war in Viet Nam, the Vietnamese people have put aside the past to contribute to the construction of a prosperous country. However, the pain of the war still lingers in many Vietnamese war veterans' families whose members have been suffering fatal diseases or were born with defects as a result of their parents or grandparents' exposure to herbicides sprayed by the US army in southern battlefields during the war.

Under the pretext of clearing forest to stop logistic supplies from the north to the south, the US army began spraying the defoliant along the national highway 14 in the central highlands region from Kon Tum to Dac To on August 10 1964. That day marked the opening of the US herbicidal warfare in Viet Nam, which lasted through to April 1975.

During the period, the US and its allies used 100,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, containing sixteen types of herbicides. The figure included 57,000 tonnes of Agent Orange (AO). Those toxic substances were sprayed on 3 million ha across the central and southern regions of Viet Nam with Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue and Da Nang provinces in the central and Tay Ninh, Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces in the south being the worst hit.

Scientists from Germany, the US and Russia have conducted a number of studies on the hazardous effects of Agent Orange/dioxin since the 1940s. They all came to the conclusion that dioxin is more poisonous than any other chemicals. The use of herbicides by the US army during the war in Viet Nam faced strong protests from the scientific circles in the US. Twenty-nine American scientists on January 1966 voiced their protest against the use of Agent Orange in the South of Viet Nam. The US army's programme to spray the defoliant in southern Viet Nam was considered a violation of international law and a war crime by the international community.

The war ended with the reunification of the Vietnamese nation. Many service men returned to their homeland and residents of war-torn localities began building a new peaceful life. However, the war will never end for many war veterans and residents of AO/dioxin exposed areas as their children and even grandchildren have been born with defects. A number of families even gave birth to three or four deformed children. They keep giving birth in the hope that they will have a healthy child because they did not know that Agent Orange, which will never allow their hope to become reality, had affected them. The more deformed children they have, the poorer and more miserable they are.

According to incomplete figures, there are over four million Vietnamese affected by Agent Orange/dioxin. Of the figure, one million have been seriously poisoned, 150,000 child victims suffer from paralysis, metal retardation, audiovisual impairment and other defects. Almost 41 percent of AO-affected children cannot do many things for themselves and 53 percent living below the poverty line. Due to limited funding, Viet Nam has so far been unable to carry out a comprehensive study about Vietnamese AO victims.

The Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences made announcements in 1994 and 1996 that it has found a link between herbicide exposure and many different types of diseases and defects. Vietnamese scientists pointed out that a large number of war veterans and young volunteers, who took part in the war, and their offspring have been suffering similar diseases and defects recognised by the US institute.

Agent Orange/dioxin did not only sow misery for the Vietnamese people but also for American troops and their allies who fought in Viet Nam during the war. American war veterans have sued US chemical companies. The US administration, scientists and chemical manufacturers have recognised poisonous effects caused by AO/dioxin. In 1985, seven US chemical manufacturing companies paid 250 million USD in compensation for US war veterans. In addition, children of those war veterans can get free medical treatment for diseases caused by AO/dioxin.

It is ridiculous that US sprayers of poisonous substances on Viet Nam have received compensation for being affected but innocent Vietnamese, who breathed the hazardous smoke, drank contaminated water, and ate poisonous food, have not been recognised by the US as victims of herbicides sprayed by the US. - Enditem

Copyright, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) - 5 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam Licence No: 599/GP-INTER issued by the Ministry of Culture and Infomation on April 9 1998 Responsible for contents: VNA Deputy General Director, Mr Nguyen Duy Cuong
Tel: 04-8252931/ Fax: 04-8252984/ Email:

Bill Totten


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