Vietnam victims hold talks in US to support Agent Orange lawsuit

A delegation of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant sprayed by US forces during the Vietnam War, will visit the US to seek support for their coming lawsuit against US chemical companies.

Three members of the delegation includes Ho Sy Hai, a Liberation Army soldier who traversed the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war, Dang Thi Hong Nhat, a revolutionary cadre in the southern province of Tay Ninh, and Nguyen Muoi, whose father was a soldier in the army of the former US-backed regime stationed in the Aluoi valley.

They will visit 12 large US cities to talk to Americans about the pain they have had to bear under the long-lasting effects of the herbicides that contained dioxins – o­ne of the most toxic and stable chemicals know to man.

Vietnamese Agent Orange victims filed an appeal to the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Sept. 30 following the rejection of their case against 37 US chemical producers last year.

The hearing will possibly be held in March 2006, a year after their hearing at the US federal court in Brooklyn, New York was dismissed, according to lawyers representing the Vietnamese plaintiffs.

Toxic herbicides

Exposure to dioxins has been associated with severe birth defects and certain rare cancers in humans.

Some 110,000 tons of Agent Orange, named after their barrel color, were sprayed in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971. It has been blamed for severe damage to the environment and human health in Vietnam.

In the hearing last March, US District Judge Jack B. Weinstein ruled there was no legal basis for the claims made by the some four million Vietnamese, who said that US chemical companies had committed war crimes by making Agent Orange for use during the Vietnam War.

Judge Weinstein chaired a trial in 1984 where the seven major manufacturers of Agent Orange (Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Uniroyal, Hercules, Diamond Shamrock, Thompson Chemical, and T. H. Agriculture and Nutrition) agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $180 million in a class-action suit filed o­n behalf of Vietnam veterans.

The growing body of medical evidence and pressure from US veterans’ organizations prompted the US Congress to act in 1991 by passing a bill that provides disability payments to Vietnam veterans suffering from soft-tissue sarcomas and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Another bill was passed in 1996 to provide benefit to the children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida, an often severe birth defect that affects the nervous system.

Reported by Nhu Nguyen – Translated by The Vinh - Thanhnien