VIETNAM: Testimonies from AO/dioxin victims

Allen Myers, Hanoi

Mai Giang Vu was a conscript in the Saigon regime’s military from 1968 to 1973, when he was wounded, losing his left eye. In 1968 he accompanied an infantry patrol on a week-long defoliation operation. In 1970 and 1971 he was involved in spraying defoliants from helicopters. He and his wife had six children, but three have died.

“All of my children were delivered in Tu Du Hospital, all heavier than 3 kilograms, healthy”, he told the March 28-29 International Conference of Agent Orange/Dioxin Victims conference. “But at 15 years old [three of them] began to walk with difficulty, then stopped learning and gradually got weaker and weaker. Their bodies and limbs began to curl up and made it impossible to walk. They had to drag their legs, crawling until 18 years old, when they were almost paralysed and had to stay in bed. Two of them passed away at 23 years old, and the third at 25…

“While American Vietnam veterans and their children enjoy some compensation, the Vietnamese victims were left by the perpetrators to cope with various war legacies alone, with limited resources and assistance.”

According to the Vietnamese Red Cross, there are at least 150,000 children in Vietnam with birth deformities that can be readily traced back to their parents' exposure to Agent Orange during the war, or the consumption of dioxin-contaminated food and water since 1975. The Vietnam Victims of Agent Orange Association (VAVA) estimates that 3 million Vietnamese were exposed to the chemical during the war, and at least 1 million suffer serious health problems today.

“I suffer from the effects of Agent Orange. My children suffer from the effects of Agent Orange and my grandchildren suffer from the effects of Agent Orange”, Roger Bush, a New Zealand Vietnam veteran, told the conference. “Our New Zealand health specialists tell us that we can anticipate that this curse will continue for the next seven generations.”

From Green Left Weekly, April 12, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

[April 10, 2006]

COLUMN: Stories of ‘American War’ put history into perspective

(Comtex Community Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Apr 10, 2006 (Daily Collegian, U-WIRE via COMTEX) –Editor’s Note: Collegian staff member Dana Mathews will chronicle her Semester at Sea experience in weekly columns that will appear Mondays in the Opinion section. She will also maintain a travel blog that can be accessed through her columns online in the Opinion section online at http://www.collegian.psu.edu.

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While most Penn State students were enjoying last week’s warm temperatures, I spent much of the week learning about a subject most Americans are only taught about briefly in high school history courses — the Vietnam War.

Only this time, the lesson was different than anything I had ever learned in my life because I was half a world away — in the village of Cuchi, two hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Learning about the Vietnam War, or as the Vietnamese call it, the “American War,” from an opposing view was fascinating. The signs that read “American War” rightfully vilified the Americans, something I wasn’t used to seeing.

I learned about the Vietnam War in a high school history class devoted specifically to the war. What I saw in Vietnam wasn’t found in the pages of my history book. I had the opportunity to hear stories of those who fell victim to U.S. military action from a second-hand source.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the Museum of War Remnants is testimony to the atrocities of the American War and the unnecessary loss of thousands of civilian lives.

When I was there, I met Le Minh Thu, the woman in charge of facilitating one of the most important interactions after the war. Thu arranges for Vietnamese veterans to meet American veterans and acts as their translator.

“They meet each other just like friends, and they talk about the war and the past,” she said.

Thu said the interactions can get emotional, and veterans often hug and cry together.

“The mission of the museum, we want to talk about the atrocity of the U.S. soldiers and their unjust treatment of the Vietnamese,” she said. “We want to support peace.”

Thu said she wants everyone to understand the various aspects of the war. Her smile disappeared when she said, “I fear that America hasn’t learned, this is happening again in Iraq.”

I told her I was against the war in Iraq. She nodded her head, and her eyes became serious. “Your president and [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair came to see this museum and these pictures — they obviously did not affect them,” Thu said.

Going to the museum gave me the same feeling I had when I went to Dachau, a concentration camp near Munich, Germany. Seeing the pictures in Vietnam of an American soldier laughing and carrying a torn body brought me back to when I was standing in a Nazi gas chamber. As I looked at the Vietnam artifacts in the museum, I realized how similar the acts committed by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War were to those committed by German soldiers during the Holocaust.

Horrifying pictures of people who fell victim to bombing attacks, their faces diced and boiled, stood not too far from a picture of woman, who appeared to be talking mid-sentence while someone held a gun to her head. The pictures may have been hard to stomach, but they showed a side of war the American government did not want its people to see — a side that showed that many of the victims were innocent Vietnamese civilians.

I felt the adrenaline rush through my bloodstream. It suddenly all hit me: I was ashamed of my own country’s military actions, both 30 years ago and today.

My mom grew up with images and news reports of the Vietnam War covering her television screen. And now I’m growing up with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have truly learned nothing about the errors of our ways just three decades ago.

I knew that if I were Thu, or anyone else from Vietnam who remembered the war, I would be bitter toward the United States. I asked her why the Vietnamese people are not bitter.

“The Vietnam War has happened; we don’t forget the past,” she said. “We don’t hate each other; we want to look for a bright future.”

She looked up at the picture hanging above us of a white dove, and took my hand. “We can forgive but we can’t forget.”

Her words echoed with me throughout the rest of the day. The next day, I decided to get a more hands-on look at the war with a group of Semester at Sea students. We toured the Cuchi tunnels, where at one point during the war, 16,000 Viet Cong forces lived. It was difficult for me to fathom that so many people lived in these tunnels, as I could barely fit through the narrow passageways.

The tunnel network of Cuchi facilitated the Viet Cong’s control of a large rural area outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The tunnels also allowed the Viet Cong to mount surprise attacks wherever the tunnels went, even within the perimeters of the U.S. military base at Dong Du.

Looking at the tunnels from the outside, one would never know that to this day, Cuchi is still the most bombed, napalmed, defoliated and devastated area in the history of global warfare.

Over 30 years later, the forest’s thick vegetation grew back into a flourishing jungle. The only pieces of evidence of the war are the occasional craters left from B-52 bombers. To comprehend what happened, you have to dig deep into the ground.

Before the entrance to a tunnel, there is a sign that reads, “All the prosperous lands of Cuchi were destroyed by the bombs of Washington, D.C.”

After our group crawled through the tunnels, we watched a video about them. “Americans wanted to turn Cuchi into a dead land,” the video said. “Cuchi will never die. And although day after day, the Americans wanted to take over, they were defeated.”

The time I spent in Vietnam gave me a unique perspective from which to see the atrocities of an unnecessary war. And I will not soon forget about the important lessons I learned while I was there.

For the rest of my life, the same six words that almost every visitor wrote in the museum’s guest book will linger in my mind: “When will the U.S. ever learn?”

CNN's Betty Nguyen to Keynote the Vietnamese American National Gala in San Francisco
Tuesday April 11, 6:00 am ET

 

Third Annual National Event Celebrates Vietnamese American Achievements

SAN JOSE, Calif., April 11 /PRNewswire/ — The Vietnamese American National Gala (VANG) is proud to announce participation by CNN anchor, Betty Nguyen in the 3rd Annual Golden Torch Awards. "I'm truly honored to take part in an event that applauds the many ways Vietnamese Americans have enriched this country and achieved great success in all aspects of life," said Nguyen.This black-tie event will take place on Saturday, May 6, 2006 at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel. Previous years' speakers have included US Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta and US Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao.

VANG celebrates and recognizes Vietnamese American accomplishments. At the awards dinner, the Golden Torch Award will be presented to distinguished individuals and organizations for their contributions to the Vietnamese American community and America. More than 1,000 attendees are expected.

"Betty is not only recognized as a national journalist but to the Vietnamese American community she is a celebrity with superstar appeal," said Ryan Hubris, VANG 2006 executive director. "Through her charitable work and compassion for the community, she demonstrates what it means to be a strong and successful Vietnamese American woman."

Betty Nguyen is a news anchor for CNN. She has anchored several breaking news events, including the death of Pope John Paul II, the London bombing attacks, the tsunami disaster in South Asia and the Iraqi elections. In September 2005, Nguyen traveled to Houston to cover thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims seeking shelter in the Astrodome. That same month, she also traveled to South Vietnam to cover deadly flooding caused by annual monsoons.

Before joining CNN, Nguyen was an anchor for KTVT in Dallas. Nguyen began her career as a morning anchor and reporter at KWTX in Waco, Texas. She has received numerous honors including an Associated Press Award, a Legacy of Women Award, and a regional Emmy Award.

Nguyen is the co-founder of Help the Hungry, an organization that strives to alleviate global hunger as well as provide humanitarian relief to needy families around the world. Her philanthropic work also earned her a spot in the Philanthropy in Texas Hall of Fame.

The 3rd Annual Golden Award Gala dinner is part of a four-day celebration which includes the VANG Celebrity Golf Classic and the San Francisco City Hall Reception on Thursday, May 4, 2006; VANG Leadership Conference, the Napa Valley Wine Tasting & Tour, and VANG Welcome Reception on Friday, May 5, 2006; San Francisco City Tour and Gala dinner on Saturday, May 6, 2006; and a Sunday Farewell Brunch.

VANG is the premier Vietnamese American gathering in the nation. VANG is the Vietnamese American community's version of the Oscar®, but it has a broader scope in recognizing professional achievements and community contributions. The black-tie dinner gala brings together nearly a thousand Vietnamese American luminaries, elected officials, corporate sponsors, and community and business leaders, to honor some of America's best and brightest.

Wells Fargo is the proud Title Sponsor of this year's celebration, along with the Viet Heritage Society (VHS) which is the host of VANG. VHS is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization based in San Jose, CA. Its mission is to preserve and promote Vietnamese culture and history through the establishment of cultural venues and educational programs that foster community understanding and appreciation. VHS is currently developing the first Vietnamese Heritage Garden in the nation. The ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 19, 2006 at Kelley Park in San Jose, CA.

For additional information on VANG, please visit www.vangUSA.com or contact Ryan Nguyen Hubris or Angie Pawlicki at 408-270-8000, or at info@vangUSA.com.

China's newest big import: Casinos in Las Vegas style Peter S. Goodman
Washington Post
Apr. 9, 2006 12:00 AM MACAU, China – In years past, Raymond Wong laid his chips on the worn-out felt of the baccarat tables at the Lisboa casino, a windowless space that epitomized the seedy reputation of this gambling enclave in southern China. Cigarette smoke hovered over throngs jostling for spots at the tables. Prostitutes plied the hallways.

Major transformation

But on a recent evening, Wong instead went to the glass-fronted Sands Macao casino, a landmark property erected by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., best known for its Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. With its seven restaurants, live cabaret acts and private club complete with wine cellar and spa, the $265 million Sands has become an emblem for this Asian gambling haven, which is pursuing an aggressive transformation to capitalize on the growing affluence of China.

"The air is better, and the furnishings are all new," said Wong, 55, who rides the ferry from Hong Kong once or twice a month. "This is something fresh."

Enticed by growing numbers of visitors from China, the world's most populous country, the same companies that built many of Las Vegas' more prominent resort casinos are investing billions of dollars in this former Portuguese colony. They are bidding to turn Macau from a place synonymous with prostitution, money laundering and binge gambling into what some are billing Asia's Las Vegas, a hive of trade shows, restaurants, shopping and entertainment, in which gambling is but one piece of a glitzy resort experience for the masses.

"What we did was simply build the antithesis of what was here," said Frank McFadden, CEO of Venetian Macao Ltd. "It's a proven experience that works, and it's just being put into a pure virgin market."

Gambling revenue soars

Already, though, the market is huge. Macau's gambling revenue nearly tripled to $5.8 billion last year from $2 billion in 2000, according to the government, pulling nearly even with the world's most lucrative gambling center: the Las Vegas Strip, which last year took in $6 billion, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The gambling boom has enticed Singapore to pursue its own casino plans, with major companies flocking to that island nation as well in pursuit of large-scale projects.

"The proclivity of Asian people to gamble is pretty staggering," said Terry Lanni, chief executive of MGM Mirage, whose $1.1 billion, 600-room MGM Grand Macao is slated to open late in 2007. "People borrow from loan sharks and gamble with it."

In Macau, outside investors are betting they can carve into the empire of Stanley Ho, the 84-year-old magnate who enjoyed a gambling monopoly for four decades, before Macau's government opened the door to foreign companies in 2001. Ho and his family still operate 15 of Macau's 18 casinos.

Across the street from Ho's Lisboa, still the top-grossing property in town, Wynn Resorts, led by Las Vegas icon Steve Wynn, is erecting a $1.2 billion, 600-room hotel and casino slated to open in early September. It will include 200 gambling tables, 340 slot machines, a ballroom seating 700 and 28,000 square feet of retail space.

"There's a huge untapped market," said Grant Bowie, president of Wynn Resorts (Macao) SA. "We've just got to build a destination."

Copy of Las Vegas casino

To the south, on 500 acres of reclaimed land between the islands of Coloane and Taipa, Sands is making the biggest bet of all: a $4.5 billion complex of casino resorts and meeting space known as the Cotai Strip. It is anchored by the 3,000-room, all-suite Macau Venetian Casino Resort, a copy of the Las Vegas property, with faux canals and gondoliers, including a 2,000-seat theater, 850,000 square feet of retail and a 1.4 million-square-foot exhibition center.

The first phase alone will add 12,000 hotel rooms by 2009, more than doubling all of Macau's hotel capacity. About 3,000 workers, 30 cranes and 50-plus dump trucks are building the new Venetian, slated to open the middle of next year. A six-star, 400-room Four Seasons hotel is going up alongside. The Shangri-La chain has pledged to build two hotels on the strip.

Underlying these investments is the rise of the Chinese leisure class. Macau sits on the doorstep of mainland China. Three years ago, as outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome decimated tourism in Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese government eased travel restrictions, freeing people to visit independently. The number of visitors to Macau rose from 11.9 million in 2003 to 18.7 million last year. About 30,000 people waited in line to visit the Sands on opening day two years ago. During the recent Chinese New Year holiday, roughly 69,000 people passed through the doors.

Where visitors to Las Vegas stay an average of more than three days, most people who come here don't even spend the night, returning to Hong Kong by ferry or by road to the cities of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The projects under way are aimed at keeping them here.

Already, though, some are warning that a gold rush mentality is building more resorts than even China can fill.

Are Asian values becoming sinfully Americanized?

Are Asian values becoming sinfully Americanized?

From the Indonesian Playboy to the Rolling Stones in Shanghai, Tom Plate wonders about Asia's moral developments

By Tom Plate
Pacific Perspectives Columnist

Monday, April 10, 2006

"The perfecting of one's self is the fundamental base of all progress and all moral development." — Confucius

Los Angeles — I am not at all a prude (more about that later). And I am certainly no saint — I'm a journalist (which some might consider a sin in itself). But I am getting a little worried about Asia. I'm not sure about the rate of its moral development any more.

Take the news from Indonesia. For the first time in the history of this secular state that has a deeply Muslim culture, a version of the Playboy Magazine is now going on sale there, though greatly modified from the sinful original available here in the States. The lovely ladies are mainly clothed and the articles offered in the first Indonesian edition looked to have enormous socially redeeming value. This sanitized Indonesian version could prove a good market test of an old joke in America — "I only read Playboy for the articles."

I understand that Indonesia can be properly described as a moderate Muslim state. Many women are seen in public in Western dress, and all sorts of versions of the Muslim faith are practiced that allows for different social practices. (Did I mention I like Indonesia very much?)

Even so, doesn't it strike you as a little odd that Playboys are for pubic sale in the world's largest Muslim nation?

It seems that the next target of the Big Bunny's Asian publishing invasion is India, the world's largest Hindu nation. Do we sense a trend here?

Then there's the Rolling Stones, one of the oldest living Western rock bands, and still one of the most ribald. You have to hand it to those sex-obsessed sexagenarians, especially leader Mick Jagger, 62, who still prances around the stage even today as if shot from a steroid cannon. The group gave a sold-out high-voltage concert in Shanghai the other day. But the tickets were expensive by Chinese standards, leaving the audience dominated by well-heeled Shanghainese and foreigners.

It's true that the Ministry of Culture pruned the concert song selection in advance. Famous Stones' staples like "Brown Sugar," "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Honky Tonk Woman" were banned from the performance. But somehow the government censors missed excising "Bitch," to the evident delight of the crowd.
           
Even so, Mao must have been rolling over in his grave over the very idea of the Rolling Stones rocking and rolling in Shanghai. This was not exactly the Cultural Revolution the late Maximum Leader had in mind.

And so, one has to wonder whether the rest of Asia isn't more or less rolling downhill like an amoral rolling stone. Take a look at Singapore, heretofore the most superficially prurient place in the region.

You still cannot officially buy Playboy there, not to mention serious pornography (though the place is reported to have a very lively underground, about which I will reveal no secrets). But it does now offer tourists — and locals — what they call bar-top dancing. This is the entertainment most notably celebrated in the mostly forgettable American film Coyote Ugly, the moving tale of young girls who bulk up their bar business by dancing (clothed) on the bar top.

Las Vegas or Los Angeles or New York is one thing — but Singapore? The fact is that the recent licensing of this kind of frisky cabaret was so un-Singapore that the controversial go-for-it decision had to be rendered at the cabinet level.

Speaking of Las Vegas, the city-state of Singapore is officially planning to offer casino gambling, as well. So you really must ask yourself: Is Asia going downhill or what?

I must here confess certain truths to avoid the charge of rank hypocrisy. Some of my best friends in the world work for Playboy, and it is true that I have once or twice read the magazine (though — I won't say whether it is for the articles or not). And of course, living in Los Angeles, a mere 55 minutes flight from Sin City, I have been to Vegas many times…and…well, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Even so, we Americans have over the years been so over-exposed to lectures and serious essays about the reality of Asian values — and exposed to the possibility that they may be superior to Western values — that it comes as a bit of a shock that Asian values may be getting closer to our own, faster than we thought possible.

Or, instead of it coming as a shock, maybe it should come as a relief?


The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.