Vietnamese joined by foreign voice, hands for Agent Orange legacy

The past 50-year fight for Vietnamese Agent Orange (AO) victims has been fueled by local and foreign advocates with 99 individuals and organizations honored by Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange early this year.

US veterans paraded in 2008 asking for compensation for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange

Brunei prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and his wife, among the one third of foreign advocates in the list, in April 2006 sent US$50,000 to the association. The money helped build houses, medical and vocational centers for Vietnamese victims of dioxin.

Many foreign advocates in the list are Viet Kieu living in Europe, Laos and South Korea, where many exhibitions and art events have been launched to raise funds for the victims back home.

For the same purpose, US veteran Roy Mike Boehm and members of the US humanity group Madison Quakers in March this year kicked a musical performance in the central region’s Quang Ngai Province.

The veteran so far has raised more than VND4 billion (US$193,900) as farming fund for more than 500 women in rural mountainous regions and more than VND535 million ($26,000) to build houses for Vietnamese veterans and AO victims.

Many members of US-based organizations such as Ford Foundation, Common Cause and Children of Vietnam have also answered to Ford’s campaign called Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin since 2000 to create plan for the fullest possible solution of the agent.

The campaign aims to raise $300 million to clear dioxin contamination in soils and provide medical cares for affected families.

As the AO disaster marked its 49-year torture in Vietnam last year, the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC) established in 2005 sent out a statement “Time to act now”, calling people to sign in orange cards to persuade the US senators pass an act concerning dioxin victims.

The act, which would include medical care, living support and contamination clearance, would completely solve the demands of AO victims in the US and Vietnam, said VAORRC coordinator Merle E. Ratner.

Active voice
Many persons and groups have spoken against the chemical producers Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

Thousands of people in New York marched in April 2010 asking Dow to take responsibility about victims of the chemical they have spread around Vietnam.

Tens of thousands of other people joined another parade on May Day 2009 in France, asking for justice for the victims.

Public hearings attended in US congressmen in 2009 also brought more light to the fight, calling the international community to raise their voice.

The hearing in Paris in May 2009 put the Vietnamese victims as the plaintiff and the US chemical producers the defendant. Members of many humanitarian groups, AO victims from the US and other Asian countries, as well as eight known lawyers from Algeria, Chile, Japan, the US and Romania.

Pains, tears and the damaged life of victims of millions of the weed killers were exposed to the public. 

Roland Weyl, a French lawyer who received big applause at the court, argued that if the US veterans have been compensated, the Vietnamese victims should have been paid even more as they were not only victims of dioxin but also of an unjust war.

Many websites, of the media and social networks, have been updated with AO impacts until now to effectively call for actions worldwide.

“War doesn’t end when the last soldier leaves,” said Bob Edgar, who used to be a congressman during the Vietnam War and now president of Common Cause, during a conference in California in March this year.

He added that it’s time to move past the “blame game” and take part in a humanitarian effort to help the people still suffering in Vietnam.

By Nhu Quynh – Translated by Thuy Minh

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