A walk in support for AO victims (Source: VNA)
Despites a number of setbacks, the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) has persevered in its attempt to seek justice for Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin victims over the past decade. 

The fight for justice for AO victims has been a long and difficult journey and has yet to gain ultimate success, but its initial outcomes are very encouraging, VAVA President Nguyen Van Rinh said in an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the Day for AO victims (August 10). 

The struggle has won support from people in Vietnam and across the world, especially in the US and countries whose armies fought during the war in Vietnam, Rinh said, adding that it has also persuaded the US Government to work with the Vietnamese Government to address AO/dioxin impacts on the environment and human health. 

The US Government and congress decided to set aside 84 million USD to address the issue. Annually, the US provides 5 million USD in humanitarian aid for medical checks and healthcare for Vietnamese AO victims and people with disabilities, he noted. 

The VAVA President recalled that before the lawsuits launched by Vietnamese AO victims, there were already several trials related to AO in the world, including one by US veterans in 1984 where 7 US chemical companies paid 180 million USD in compensation to the war veterans while refusing to acknowledge their wrongdoings. In 2006, a Seoul court issued a verdict demanding two US chemical companies – Dow Chemical and Monsanto, to pay 62 million USD for health care costs for 6,800 Korean war veterans who used to serve in Vietnam and their families. The verdict is yet to be enforced. 

Rinh also noted that the US government spends around 1.5 billion USD every year to take care of US war veterans affected by AO/dioxin. 

The VAVA has twice filed lawsuits in US courts against over 30 US chemical companies for producing and supplying the toxic chemical for use during the war in Vietnam. Despite being denied, the lawsuits helped people from many countries around the world better understand the impact of AO/dioxin on the environment and human health in Vietnam. 

Regarding the Vietnamese-French AO victim Tran To Nga’s lawsuit against 26 US chemical companies, President Rinh said his association continually supports and accompanies Nga in her lawsuit in France. 

He said the association sent an open letter to the French Court of Evry to call for support of Nga, and also invited Nga and her lawyers from the Paris-based William Bourdon & Forestier law firm to visit AO/dioxin “hot spots” and victims and join activities for Vietnamese AO victims in 2015. 

VAVA is set to introduce more lawyers to support Nga in her lawsuit moving forward, Rinh confirmed, adding that the association has raised tens of thousands of euros for the law suit and will continue with fundraising activities. 

The US military sprayed some 80 million litres of toxic chemicals from 1961 to 1971, 61 percent of which was AO containing 366 kilograms of dioxin, over nearly one quarter of the total area of South Vietnam. 

Preliminary statistics showed that 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to AO/dioxin and about 3 million people became victims. Tens of thousands of people have died while millions of others have suffered from cancer and other incurable diseases as a result. Many of their offspring suffer from birth deformities. 

Since its establishment in 2004, the VAVA has raised nearly 1 trillion VND (46 million USD) to help AO victims build and repair houses as well as assist with production, health examination, and job generation, Rinh said, adding that 300,000 out of the three million people affected by the toxic chemical are benefitting from the support policies for AO victims.-VNA