February 19, 2007
Tran Xuan Thu, vice president of the Viet Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange, spoke with Dai doan ket (Great Unity) newspaper about the ongoing lawsuit against US chemical companies.
This will be Viet Nam’s second appeal in the Agent Orange lawsuit against American chemical companies. Will the 33 AO/dioxin victims, who were previously present in the US court, appear yet again for appeal?
The appearance of AO/dioxin victims in the US has had positive effects. For the upcoming appeal, five victims from Dong Nai, HCM City, Thua Thien-Hue and Thanh Hoa will be present in the US court of appeal.
Currently, VAVA is also making a documentary to present before the court and lobby in the US.
What are the chances of the appeal being upheld by the court? How has VAVA prepared for it?
In the lawsuit of 33 victims against 37 American chemical companies, represented also by VAVA, the Vietnamese victims have been denied justice till now.
We are determined to follow up the lawsuit to the end and ensure that the victims get justice. The US courts are yet to make a final decision on the case.
Our important arguments in the case will focus on international conventions banning chemicals for war, including the 1907 Havo Convention and the 1925 Geneva Convention. The United Nations has issued resolutions condemning US army’s chemical war against Viet Nam and deemed it a violation of international conventions.
International experts, including Americans, have confirmed the effects of dioxin on humans and considered it the primary cause for cancer.
The US court should consider these pieces of evidences and ensure justice is done for AO/dioxin victims.
But these preces of evidence have been presented in earlier appeals. So, will they be effective?
No one can deny the truth of the effect of AO/dioxin on Vietnamese people since the American War.
Many scientists from prestigious labs in France, Japan, the Netherlands and Canada have taken dioxin samples from areas sprayed with chemicals in Viet Nam, which have been the worst affected by these chemicals in the world. Though, over a period of time, the concentration of dioxin has come down in Viet Nam, it is still high in areas that housed US warehouses.
Our lawsuit is a civil one between AO/dioxin victims and those who caused it.
In the US, many victims have received support from the government. Chemical companies in the US have also supported American AO/dioxin victims. Former President Bill Clinton had confirmed the effect of chemicals on Vietnamese war veterans and added that it was their right to get justice.
So why don’t Vietnamese victims, who have been seriously affected, receive compensation on the same principles of justice applicable to Americans?
What is our long-term strategy in tackling the case?
In case we win this appeal, the file will be sent back to the first court and the process will have to start all over again.
As a result, we need to be patient regarding this lawsuit. The VAVA has also drafted a long-term strategy.
First, we will co-operate with international lawyers on action programmes to support the lawsuit. We have agreed and finished the procedures on this.
We have also mobilised international opinion, and received support from the France-Viet Nam Friendship Association. We are lobbying for the lawsuit in Europe and Latin America and the Non-Aligned Movement presided by Cuba. We have also lobbied for material and political support in the US.
With the lawsuit, we are asking the US to own up responsibility for solving the consequences of the war, especially towards AO/dioxin victims.
What other support has been pledged for the lawsuit? How has lobbying for the lawsuit succeeded abroad?
We have received personal support of Len Aldis, general secretary of the UK-Viet Nam Friendship Association and the association itself, some other international organisations and US scientists.
Within the country, VAVA will continue to collect signatures in support for the lawsuit.
So far, nearly 12.5 million signatures have been collected. This will be one of the main programmes in 2007 for supporting the lawsuit. — VNS