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Asia-Europe Forum supports Agent Orange victims

Vietnamese Agent Orange victims and others victimized by weapons of mass destruction enjoyed warm support from the over 500 men and women taking part in the 7th Asia-Europe People’s Forum, held in Beijing on October 13-15. The Forum’s Final Declaration stated: “Support and protect survivors of the use and effects of weapons of mass destruction. Hold companies responsible for the production of weapons of mass destruction and toxic chemicals to account so that victims are compensated.” This unmistakably implies Dow Chemicals, Monsanto and other US companies which produced the dioxin-rich Agent Orange (AO) used by US forces during the Vietnam war, causing millions of victims.

Sympathy with the victims was also manifested, in particular, at a workshop on weapons of mass destruction, legacies of their use, and justice for victims, where a representative of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, Mr. Nguyễn Minh Y, was a main speaker. Followed with keen attention, Mr. Y’s presentation included the following information: During the Vietnam war, especially from 1961 to 1971, the US waged a chemical warfare under the cloak of different color-coded herbicides. With only inadequate statistics, US researchers have been able to find out that the US Air Force alone had sprayed over South Vietnam at least 80 million liters of herbicides, 65% of which was AO (a compound of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T) containing 455-600kg of dioxin (which has been known as the most toxic substance among its isomers and other poisons). Many studies around the world including those conducted by the US/IOM and recognized by US/DVA have proved that dioxin can cause a wide range of cancers: - soft tissue carcinomas; - upper respiratory tract carcinoma; - leukemia; - non-Hodgkin sarcoma and Hodgkin; - prostate cancer; - multiple myeloma; - other diseases and birth defects. The sprayed areas were tropical jungles, mangroves, rice fields, populous villages, and human beings, including: - 2.3 to 3 million acres (or 29% of the total land area of South Vietnam); - 20,585 villages. Typically, there were cases where one acre was subjected to from 10 to 100 sprayings, with averagely 5.5kg of 2,4-D and 6kg of 2,4,5-T (i.e. 6-25 times higher than acceptable levels). Thus, AO was sprayed not only in large quantities, on wide areas, but also repeatedly on the same targets. This turned not only the dioxin-laced AO but every weedkiller into poison. According to studies conducted by Vietnamese scientists, there have been in Vietnam so far about 3 million AO victims of direct and indirect exposure, of first generation and second generation, and some of the third generation. With its high toxicity, AO has also seriously damaged the environment. A modest estimation shows that destroyed were: - 33,339 acres of crops; - 3,104,000 acres (or 95.2%) of forest land; - 150,000 acres (or 4.8%) of mangrove area; - 90 million cubic meters of commercial timber. The flora and the ability of land to regenerate itself were seriously damaged. Large areas of land have become arid and uncultivable. Several precious plant and wild animal species have vanished. Environmental destruction has resulted in severe flooding, salty water invasion, and weed and pest growth. Over the years, dioxin contamination of the soil and water has been considerably reduced to acceptable levels, and in many places forests have been recovered. But, in certain “hotspots”, especially in and around former US military bases such as Đà Nẵng, Biên Hoà and Phù Cát where chemicals were stored during the war, AO is still threatening the daily life of local inhabitants. In the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Canada, AO victims have conducted legal actions to demand for, and have in effect received, compensation from their respective governments. The US Government has spent 1.52 billion USD annually on compensating its 160,000 AO-connected Vietnam war veterans. As regards Vietnamese AO victims, after failure of many years of goodwill request and negotiation, they finally had to file their class action into the US District Court of Brooklyn on January 30th, 2004. Despite clear evidences, the case was denied first by this Court and later by the Second Court of Circuit of Appeals in favor of the defendants – Dow Chemicals, Monsanto and other US chemical companies. The case is now pending to the US Supreme Court./.





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