Int'l conference appeals justice for AO victims

Governments, international and national organizations, and non-government organizations are urged to provide material and spiritual support for victims of Agent Orange/dioxin in Viet Nam.

The appeal was released in Ha Noi at the end of the March 28-29 International Conference of Victims of AO/dioxin.

Following is the full text of the appeal:

"We, victims of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals, together with supporters and scientists from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia, the United States and Viet Nam participating in the International Conference of Victims of AO/dioxin (ICVA) held in Ha Noi, Viet Nam o­n March 28-29, 2006, make the following appeal to the international community:

"We have discussed the effects of Agent Orange contaminated with dioxin (AO/dioxin) and other toxic chemicals o­n the life and health, and the sufferings of those affected. Based o­n this exchange of views, we unanimously confirm the following:

1. During the war waged in Viet Nam, the US chemical companies manufactured and supplied millions of litres of toxic chemicals disguised as defoliants or herbicides. Those chemicals contained high levels of dioxin. They were an utterly lethal substance.

2. Those toxic chemicals destroyed the environment, millions of acres of forests, leading to an imbalanced ecology, great loss of timber resources and the disappearance of several annual species as well as precious forest vegetation. As a consequence, natural disasters, such as flood, erosion and drought have become more common and thus impacting severely o­n agriculture, the main source of subsistence for South Vietnamese residents.

3. However, the worst effect of those toxic chemicals is the harm to human life and health of those exposed to them. Victims of AO/dioxin and other toxic chemicals consists of:

a. Million of Vietnamese living in their homes and members of the liberation armed forces, and those working for the former Sai Gon regime and armed forces, an ally of the US at that time. Various investigations and scientific studies (frequently with participation of foreign and American scientists) have demonstrated that Vietnamese victims have suffered a variety of serious diseases - even far more and worse than the dioxin-related diseases listed by the US National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine between 1994 and 1995. In addition, many female victims have experienced reproductive problems. Many of them have been deprived of the ability to bear children and to experience the joy of being a mother. The most painful effect, however, is that AO/dioxin has already harmed the next generation of children and will do the same to the following o­nes. Many children have been born without the experience of war but have deformed bodies and can never enjoy the simplest experience of happiness - that is to live as an ordinary human being.

For the above-said reasons, victims of AO/dioxin and their families are among the poorest and most unhappy of the society. Many thousands of victims have died without justice for themselves and their families.

The fact that there are large numbers of Vietnamese victims suffering from various kinds of serious diseases, is understandable for they have been living in areas sprayed by AO/dioxin.

b. Many thousands of soldiers and officers from the United States, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada and New Zealand were also contaminated by AO/dioxin while involved in the Viet Nam war. They have consequently suffered many serious diseases, which also caused enormous sufferings to their loved o­nes. Several countries have recognized the health effects of AO/dioxin and other toxic chemicals and paid for medical and other treatments for affected veterans. Nevertheless, many still do not have these entitlements and still have to fight for recognition, compensation and justice.

c. Apart from those affected by AO/dioxin in Viet Nam, many in Gagetown (Canada) and other countries also connect their illnesses with the use of AO/dioxin. Their conditions are similar to those of Vietnamese and other victims and they have therefore participated in this international conference of victims of AO/dioxin so as to express their solidarity with the affected people and their struggle for justice.

The contamination by AO/dioxin and other toxic chemicals has led to the poor physical health and death of many, loss of family happiness, a life of poverty and deprivation for deformed children, and absence of support in times of sickness and old age.

4. We utterly dispute the conclusion reached by Judge Jack Weinstein who dismissed the Vietnamese victims' lawsuit without paying respect to justice and the obvious realities in Viet Nam.

5. We, victims of AO/dioxin and our supporters affirm our commitment to working in solidarity, regardless of race or political belief, and demand that the US chemical companies pay compensation equal to their liability, as stipulated by law.

6. We strongly support the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese AO/dioxin victims till their final victory in their fight for justice.

We congratulate the initial success of Republic of Korean victims and will continue to support them until their final victory. We support the fight for justice of the Viet Nam veterans of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

7. We demand that the United States Government be held responsible for making contributions to overcoming the consequences of toxic chemicals.

8. We call upon governments of Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to adopt appropriate policies towards victims of their respective countries and also support the victims in Viet Nam.

9. We call upon governments, international and national organizations, and non-government organizations to provide material and spiritual support for victims of AO/dioxin in Viet Nam and help the country overcome the heavy aftermath of the toxic chemical.

"The pain and sufferings are not a single individual’s.

"This struggle for justice is for the entire world, for future generations, and for our peaceful and healthy planet earth”.

Vietnam News Agency