Five years after Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange (AO)/Dioxin filed a class action suit against US chemical companies in the US courts, the pain and suffering caused by the toxic chemicals still linger on in their daily lives.
People of conscience around the world expressed their indignation at the unjust rulings by the US courts dismissing the Vietnamese victims’ suit. Meanwhile, those who are responsible for compensating the victims paid no heed to their moral and legal obligations, though they all know that many Vietnamese victims have died and millions of others, including innocent children, have been living for years in misery with life-threatening illnesses caused by dioxin.
“The pain of AO/Dioxin victims is that of humankind,” said Nguyen Van Rinh, chairman of the Vietnamese Association for the Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) at an international court of conscience in Paris, France in May 2009. “Vietnamese AO victims demand justice not only for themselves but also for other victims such as war veterans from the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Canada, as well as the victims of other weapons of mass destruction. They struggle not only for the present-day generation, but also for future generations.”
At an international press conference after the court, Mr Rinh said that relationship between Vietnam and the US has developed well in recent times.
“To further strengthen this relationship for mutual benefit and for peace, the two nations should make a greater effort to break away from the enduring legacy of the past war – the last ghost of war,” said Mr Rinh, adding that bringing justice to Vietnamese AO victims is a must in an attempt to heal war wounds.
VAVA says people of conscience around the globe are gathering support for the victims’ lawsuit. More Americans voiced support for the Vietnamese victims at the international court of conscience in Paris last month. Among them was Frank Cocoran, who served the Vietnam War and was exposed to Agent Orange. He contracted cancer and has since received a special allowance from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. He said that it is unjust that Vietnamese Agent Orange victims have not enjoyed the same compensation. Therefore, over the past years he has actively been engaged in the struggle to demand justice for the Vietnamese victims, he said.
Rena Kopystenski, wife of a war veteran from New Jersey who died of Agent Orange, expressed her anger when justices denied the link between Agent Orange and newborns with congenital defects.
Lawyer William Bourdon, a famous French legal expert, said in the courtroom that during his visit to Vietnam in April 2009, he saw with his own eyes the lingering pain suffered by the Vietnamese AO victims. As a witness at the court, he insisted that both chemical companies and their clients take responsibility for the serious harm caused by the toxic chemicals.
Many peace and justice-loving people around the world have admired the Vietnamese victims for their tireless efforts in travelling to many places around the world to demand justice although they know they might die during or after the trip. Their presence is testimony to the harmful effects of Agent Orange/dioxin on the people.
The Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs will conduct a second hearing on Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam in Washington DC on June 4 (local time). VAVA chairman Nguyen Van Rinh hopes that the Obama administration will take positive steps toward relieving the pain of the Vietnamese AO victims. The world public and AO victims, including those from Vietnam, earnestly hope that justice will prevail in the end.