Hoang Cong Thuy - Secretary General of the Vietnam-US Friendship Association
'I still believe justice will come to Agent Orange victims in Vietnam'
|Paul Fox and Merle Ratner (center) went to San Francisco airport to welcome Nguyen Thi Hong (right), Agent Orange victim, and members of the delegation.|
- In 2007, you and the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) visited the United States to attend the appellate court of the case against US chemical companies. Can you tell us a little bit about that trip?
At that time I was the Secretary General of the Vietnam-USA Society, and I was sent to join as part of the delegation visiting the USA to attend the appellate court to contribute to the fight for justice for the Vietnamese Agent Orange victims. The delegation consisted of 6 people, Tran Xuan Thu was the leader and I was the deputy. The remaining 4 members are all Agent Orange victims, including Nguyen Thi Hong from Dong Nai, Nguyen Van Quy from Hai Phong, Vo Thanh Hai, and Nguyen Muoi from Thua Thien-Hue, who are all affected by various diseases including terminal cancer.
Before the trip, we had the honor to visit General Vo Nguyen Giap at his home. He graciously received the delegation and expressed sympathy for the physical and mental pain that Agent Orange victims have to suffer over the years. He advised that the friendship between the Vietnamese people and the American people was a precious asset, therefore the delegation should take advantage of the friendship and support from American friends. The delegation is supposed to fight for justice, so justice belongs to the delegation. He wished the delegation good health and success.
|Hoang Cong Thuy gave an interview to the American press in New York.|
- What impressed you most on that trip?
During our stay in the US, we went to San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles to do interviews with many newspapers, radios, television stations, and non-governmental organizations. We met parliamentarians, public health experts, journalists, veterans, peace activists, intellectuals, students, etc.
The delegation mentioned the serious generation-to-generation consequences suffered by Agent Orange/dioxin victims in Vietnam in general and by themselves in particular. We raised awareness among American public and requested them to continue to support the lawsuit pursued by VAVA and the victims against American chemical companies producing Agent Orange/dioxin to supply the US military in the war. At those meetings, many Americans couldn't believe it when they learned that more than three million Vietnamese people still suffer from painful illnesses caused by the dioxin in extremely difficult living conditions.
Most of the people who contacted the delegation expressed sympathy, agreement, and support for the lawsuit. They demand US companies to be morally responsible for what they caused to the people, ecology, and environment of Vietnam. The most touching part was the meeting with American veterans who fought in Vietnam. Many of them are also Agent Orange/dioxin victims, have children with birth defects like the victims in Vietnam. They were moved and apologized for what they did in Vietnam. Those who used to confront each other on the battlefield, in those past old days, had the opportunity to fight together for justice for both sides.
The delegation also visited Dow Chemical and Monsanto. When meeting local people living around those chemical factories, they all said that over the years they continuously protested the waste and pollution caused by them.
The whole delegation was present at the court hearing. People attending the trial could witness the Agent Orange victims from Vietnam in person.
Although the US court rejected the appellate case, the delegation's trip and following trips helped the American people understand more about the pain of the Vietnamese affected by Agent Orange. The trips enjoy the broad consensus of the people and progressive American congressmen for the lawsuit and awakened their conscience and moral responsibility for the consequences of the war they had caused.
- After returning to Vietnam and became Ambassador to Panama, covering Costa Rica, what did you continue to do in the fight for justice for Agent Orange victims?
I continued to call for support for the Vietnamese Agent Orange victims in Panama and in Costa Rica. I contacted Panamanian authorities and many local people, from the former president, politicians, NGOs, the young generation, and the overseas Vietnamese. I gave presentation and showed them movies Agent Orange's negative effects in Vietnam at Ministries of Foreign Affairs and several universities in Panama and Costa Rica. Through advocacy, friends have mentally and physically supported Vietnam's Agent Orange victims.
I also led a delegation of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin to visit and hold a campaign in Panama and Costa Rica, and at the same time awarded medals "For Victims of Agent Orange" to those who actively participated.
Notably, for nearly ten years, Maggie Brooks of Costa Rica and her friends have donated money to build houses for Agent Orange victims in some localities. Her efforts have been highly appreciated by the Government of Vietnam and VAVA.
|For nearly ten years, Maggie Brooks (Costa Rica) and her friends have donated money to build houses of gratitude for Agent Orange victims in some localities|
- Do you have any thoughts on the lawsuit filed by Tran To Nga against US chemical companies?
I followed Mrs Tran To Nga's lawsuit against US chemical companies. It is regrettable that the French court of Evry declared that it did not have sufficient jurisdiction to handle the case. Once again, justice has not been done for Agent Orange victims in Vietnam.
The court's decision was not convincing considering the fact that US chemical companies had produced and supplied about 80 million liters of Agent Orange for the US military to spray on South Vietnam, causing serious consequences on Vietnam's environment, health, ecology, and people.
I still believe justice will come to Agent Orange victims in Vietnam
- In your opinion, what should be done in the future?
Vietnam and the United States have normalized their relations and are building a strategic partnership. This is the basis for the two to improve mutual understanding, friendly relationship to solve the remaining war, including Agent Orange issue.
In addition to pursuing the lawsuit, it is necessary to further promote international public opinion's support for Vietnam. We need to communicate the American people and the US government to raise awareness, moral responsibility, and justice for Agent Orange victims.
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