The Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) has collected more evidence for the victims’ lawsuit against the U.S., said VAVA Vice President Tran Xuan Thu in a recent interview.
Taking care of an AO/Dioxin victim Mr. Tran Xuan Thu
Does VAVA intend to pursue the lawsuit against American chemical companies or struggle for justice in another direction as the lawsuit has lasted seven years without achieving final results?
Despite the passage of time, the association will continue to seek justice by legal means. We know there remains a lot to be done. First we are urging the U.S. House of Representatives to compensate both American and Vietnamese victims of AO/dioxin. Then we request the U.S. Congress and Administration to give compensations or subsidies for the victims.
The verdict by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York takes effect only in this state. Even though the court rejected the lawsuit lodged by the Vietnamese victims, Vietnam can still sue in another state of the U.S.Preparations are being made for the final stage. The lawsuit is expected to come to the fore again in late 2011 or early 2012.
U.S. courts rejected much of the evidence provided by Vietnam in previous lawsuits. What is new evidence to give them?
We have gathered a wide range of new evidence for the lawsuit.
There is no doubt that the U.S. wants to shirk its legal responsibility and keep the lawsuit in a state of deadlock. The final results depend on not only the defendants but also the U.S. government’s sense of responsibility.
Dioxin-related diseases recognised by the U.S. are all found in Vietnam. Are they considered as part of the convincing evidence for VAVA’s legal proceedings?
Yes, that’s important evidence. The U.S. has identified 15 diseases, Vietnam 17. Many of the diseases are common in both countries. However, the lists provided by the two sides do not include many important diseases caused by dioxin such as immunodeficiency, which is popular but goes unnoticed because it is not as acute as other diseases.
In the meantime, the U.S. government has subsidized all American victims who suffer from any disease in the U.S. list, including those losing 10 percent of their labour capacity. This practice clearly shows that the U.S. deliberately evades their responsibility for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin.
Paying more attention to victims
The U.S. has coordinated with Vietnam in dealing with Agent Orange-related issues, however, capital disbursement is slow going. How much has the U.S. side done so far?
The U.S. side has realised their responsibility under the strong pressure of both domestic and international communities. They have admitted harmful effects of AO/dioxin chemicals. This is considered as an initial success in the struggle for Vietnamese AO victims’ justice.
The U.S. has increased financial support year by year, from USD3 million in 2007-2009 to around USD15 million at present. As far as I know the U.S. spent billions of U.S. dollars to support their AO victims so the sum for 4 million Vietnamese AO victims is still too small compared to their sufferings. Moreover, most of the money is for clearing hot spots in the environment. Along with detoxicating the AO-affected areas, the U.S. has to support victims directly.
In a recent interview you said that there would be a wide range of activities to support victims, including building centres for them in provinces and cities. How are things going?
On August 10, 2009 – the Day for Vietnamese AO/dioxin victims, we launched a fund raising programme with the aim of mobilising VND64 billion (USD3.05 million) in five years. Now we have enough money to build 58 centres at the cost of VND500 million (USD23,889) each. We have already built 12 centres apart from 10 others funded by the State. Our project to build such centres in all provinces and cities will be completed by 2013.
Initially, each centre is funded VND500 million (USD23,889) to take care of dozens of AO children. We have just submitted a plan to Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan to build three major centres in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City to care for lonely victims and parents of victims without family support.
What are activities to mark the 50th anniversary of the spread of Agent Orange over Vietnam (1961- 2011)?
A national conference is scheduled on August 10 to mark the 50th anniversary of dioxin being sprayed during the war in Vietnam. The event will be a chance for us to thank both domestic and international communities’ supporting AO victims and to hold the U.S. responsible for dealing with the war aftermath.
A wide range of activities will be held across the country, including the first national conference in early July to honour AO victims who have pulled themselves through difficult time and another conference from August 6-9 to give first aid to AO victims as well as visits to present gifts to victims.
The VAVA is currently preparing for these activities.
Thank you very much.
Hanoi will host a series of activities, such as a requiem for AO victims, a visit to the Truong Son Cemetery in Quang Tri, a meeting to mark the 50th anniversary of the spread of Agent Orange over Vietnam (August 10) and free medical check ups for 10,000 AO victims.