12/07/2005 11:03 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0  
 

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan:
"Those who cause consequences have to bear responsibility"

On January 30, 2004, three Vietnamese representing the Agent Orange/dioxin victims and the Association of Agent Orange/dioxin Victims of Vietnam filed a lawsuit to the US federal court in Brooklyn, New York state, demanding US chemicals companies to compensate for the harm to their health caused by the chemical toxics produced by those companies and used by US forces during the Vietnam War.nbsp; VNP interviews Prof. Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan, Vice President of the Association, on the case.


Prof. Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan.


US planes spraying defoliants on Vietnam
in 1966.
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A mangrove forest in Ca Mau (southern Vietnam) destroyed by the dioxin chemicals.


Siemese twins Viet and Duc, victims of the Agent Orange/dioxin, before being separated at Tu Du Hospital in 1986.


A mother and her child affected by the Agent Orange/dioxin from Tay Ninh Province.

On January 30, 2004, three Vietnamese representing the Agent Orange/dioxin victims and the Association of Agent Orange/dioxin Victims of Vietnam filed a lawsuit to the US federal court in Brooklyn, New York state, demanding US chemicals companies to compensate for the harm to their health caused by the chemical toxics produced by those companies and used by US forces during the Vietnam War.nbsp; VNP interviews Prof. Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan, Vice President of the Association, on the case.

- Professor, is this the first civil case by Agent Orange/dioxin victims in Vietnam against US chemicals companies? nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Yes. This is a civil case coming in line with international and US laws, and not an obstacle to the bilateral relations. The case is based on the US federal laws on the compensation to foreigners for international violations and on the laws on legal obligation for the products. Besides the three who filed the suit, there will be hundreds of other Agent Orange/dioxin victims who will do the same in a near future.

- What is the purpose of the case?

In the 1961-1971 period, US forces sprayed about 80 million litres of Agent Orange/dioxin produced by US chemicals companies in the south of Vietnam, and this caused serious consequences to human health. It is estimated that over 4 million Vietnamese suffer from diseases, many of them serious, as a result of the infection from the toxics. At the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnam demanded the U.S. to compensate the victims through humanitarian ways, but Washington has been trying to dodge it. All the American soldiers affected by the toxics used during the war have got compensation, but the Vietnamese have not, and this is unfair. That is why, after a long period of waiting in vain, Vietnamese victims decided to raise the case to demand compensation to themselves and their descendants. They launch the case not only for their own life, but also for the generations that have been and will be suffering from the lingering consequences. The case is for the sacred right to life, the first right of the human being, because they believe that conscience is still existing and justice is respected at US courts. Public opinion, including that from foreign countries, supports this just act for the rights of every victim of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam as well as in other countries, including the United States.

- Will the plaintiff meet with any difficulty?nbsp;

Yes, many. But in my opinion, the main difficulty comes from the fact that they file the suit against the very rich US chemicals companies in the U.S. territory at a US court under US laws with the participation of US lawyers. The World Democratic Lawyers' Association has recommended a number of lawyers to us to protect the rights of the plaintiff.

Some years ago, this organization held a meeting against the use of the chemical toxics used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War and against Washington's failure to solve the problem completely. The lawyers defending the rights of the Vietnamese victims are all progressive, they will cover all the costs and we will pay back to them only after winning the case.

- In your opinion, will they win the case?nbsp;

This is a hard and time-taking job that requires patience. But we believe that conscience and justice will win. Those who cause the consequences will have to bear the responsibility. On the other hand, there are international laws banning the use of weapons of mass destruction, that is why US chemicals companies must bear their responsibility in this case.

Of late, Nguyen Thi Tam, a teacher of Hoa Hong Kindergarten, Chief of the Liaison Board for former female youth-volunteers of Thai Binh Province, has successfully collected 1,376 complaints from the victims of the Agent Orange/dioxin, to form a set of files to lodge against the US chemicals corporations, compelling them to pay damages that they wrought in the US War in Vietnam. According to Tam, this number of complaints is not final yet, because in all of Thai Binh Province, there are more than 10,000 former youth volunteers.nbsp;

Prof. Kenneth J. Hermann, an American Vietnam Vet and Director of the "Sunny Brockport Vietnam" Program (consultant to Class Action Lawsuits) has called upon the Agent Orange/dioxin victims in Vietnam to send complaints to him so that he may mobilize public opinion to support them in the lawsuit against the US chemicals corporations. Answering an interview by mass media, he said that he watched a TV Program in Da Nang, in which quite a few Agent Orange/dioxin victims told of their awful sufferings and he was deeply touched. A sense of loss and fury overwhelmed him then. Thousands of such victims are living in Da Nang and millions more across Vietnam.

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nbsp;nbsp;Story: Vuong Mo

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