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  • Monsanto Court Ruling

     

    Viet Nam News - HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have once again had their hopes for justice rekindled. But despite the recent landmark ruling against Monsanto in a San Francisco court, major obstacles remain on the path towards justice.

    On August 11, the US court ruled that the multinational agrochemical corporation was liable for the health issues of a former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who claims that Monsato’s weed-killer product (Roundup) contains carcinogens that cause his cancers.

    The company was ordered to pay US$289 million as compensation for past and future economic losses and punitive damages to the American citizen, in a closely watched case that bears many similarities to the legal battle waged on behalf of Vietnamese victims.

    The US chemical group Monsanto has long been associated with the Agent Orange devastation in Việt Nam.

    It was one of the main suppliers of more than 80 million litres of herbicides which contain Agent Orange that US troops sprayed over southern Việt Nam in the period from 1961-71, to clear out the dense tracts of tropical jungles that served as the hideouts of the Vietnamese military forces.

    Of the total volume, 44 million litres were Agent Orange, containing nearly 370 kilograms of dioxin. Studies have showed that only 80 grams of dioxin in the water supply system of a city of 8 million could kill off the entire population, still, Monsanto and other chemical groups insist that their products were not harmful to humans’ health.

    The Government of Việt Nam estimates that around 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic substance. Three million people have grappled with debilitating diseases including various types of cancers, neural damage and reproductive failures. Birth deformities and mental impairments continue to haunt even the third and fourth generation of descendants of those originally exposed to dioxin, fourty years after the war ended.

    Legal fight

    Quách Thành Vinh, Chief of Office and Director of Liaison Lawyers Office for the Hà Nội-based Việt Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), said that the court ruling set a fortuitous legal precedent that will help settle similar cases in which victims of chemical toxins seek compensation, including the association’s own case.

    The association filed its first class-action suit in 2004, which pinned the blame on a total of 37 US chemical manufacturers – including Dow Chemical and Monsanto. However, the case was rejected three times by American courts, which claimed that there was no legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims. The courts said that since the chemical companies produced these herbicides on request by the federal Government, they could not be held liable for their effects.

    The court also ruled that at that time, there was little concrete evidence establishing a causal relation between the herbicide Agent Orange and the health issues of the victims.

    Fortunately, recent scientific achievements have made it much easier to identify whether the illnesses were caused by the dioxin.

    In the US, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has identified 13 diseases related to Agent Orange occurring in American Veterans after their service in Việt Nam. Vietnamese-based researchers established a list of 17 diseases caused by exposure to dioxin, signed by Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến in 2008.

    In addition, as their immune systems were debilitated by the toxin, the Vietnamese victims also easily fell ill to a siege of other diseases that a healthy person could easily overcome.

    The association is gearing up for the next legal endeavours on behalf of nearly 3 million Vietnamese victims.

    But numerous American lawyers sympathetic to the cause and persistent in their pursuit of justice have urged Vietnamese plaintiffs to wait for a second lawsuit, Vinh from VAVA said.

    The enlisting of American lawyers was critical as the case involves complaints against US-based companies, according to US laws and US judges will be presiding, according to Vinh.

    “Their expertise with the US legal system and their support for us will certainly help tip the scales in our favour.”

    Next steps

    The association, aside from litigation attempts, is still tirelessly working to bring justice to the Vietnamese victims by seeking support from influential politicians, scientists and progressive-minded people across the world, and lobbying sympathetic lawmakers in the US to draft bills asking the US Government to accept responsibility for the devastation in Việt Nam as well as to take part in clean-up efforts and help the victims.

    Merle Ratner, the American co-ordinator of the US-based Việt Nam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, agreed that the ruling given by the US court holds “historical significance” and important implications.

    Frequently hailed by Vietnamese media as a faithful friend of the Vietnamese people, Ratner has been a constant presence in the years-long legal battles against chemical manufacturers.

    However, the fight against Monsanto still has a long way to go, at least until the final verdict of the appellate court is handed down, as Monsanto has already announced its intention to appeal the decision, she said in an interview.

    In 2009, an international court opened in France to deal with the AO matter and Vietnamese victims. However, both the US Government and sued companies refused to appear.

    On April 18, 2017, the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, after six months of investigation and two days of testimony, decided that Monsanto was guilty of ecocide, causing long-term consequences on the ecosystem of various nations, including Việt Nam.

    But Monsanto rejected the ruling.

    The multinational giant, no stranger to controversy and legal suits, has always denied that it is to blame for the consequences of Agent Orange, saying that the weapon “was only produced for, and used by, the government,” and pointing out that it was just one of nine manufacturers of the same toxin supplied to the army during the period of 1965-69.

    Despite claiming blamelessness, the chemical giant still agreed to settle out of court to compensate American war Veterans who filed a class-action suit against the company with $180 million. Meanwhile, Vietnamese suffering continues to be disregarded.

    The Vietnamese Government each year spends more than VNĐ10 trillion ($431.1 million) to provide monthly allowance and cover health care and physical rehabilitation expenses for victims of Agent Orange.

    Currently, the US has organised several clean-up operations at some of their former military bases such as the Đà Nẵng airport or Biên Hoà airport, provide humanitarian assistance for people with disabilities in Việt Nam, including victims of Agent Orange, but these efforts still can not fully make up for the devastation, pain and loss that Agent Orange causes in Việt Nam.

    The Government of Việt Nam, in an official response last week, said it welcomed the $289 million verdict against Monsanto and asked that Monsanto, along with other suppliers of herbicides for the US Army during the bloody war in Việt Nam, offer proper redress for the Vietnamese victims.

    “No matter how difficult and prolonged this case might be, we won’t ever give up on it, for the sake of the millions of Vietnamese victims,” said Vinh of the Agent Orange Victims’ Association said. — VNS

    Source

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  • VN War Mem Vandalized

     

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A vandal in San Jose has defaced a memorial dedicated to honor local fallen heroes of the Vietnam War. The “Sons of San Jose” memorial is located on West Santa Clara Street, near the SAP Center.

    Whoever defaced the memorial used some sort of paint, that's etched into the black granite. It will likely cost thousands of dollars to restore it back to its original state.

    Mike Salas served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He’s part of the San Jose War Memorial Foundation, which helped erect the monument.

    “These are sacred grounds,” said Salas. “This is where people come to have closure and it should be left alone.”

    Salas rushed over Sunday morning as soon as he heard a vandal tagged the front panel sometime overnight Saturday.

    “If they only understood the cost of freedom and the cost of courage that these men died for so they can be out here, they wouldn't touch it,” said Salas.

    Dennis Fernandez is the foundation's president. He also served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He said, the memorial was erected in 2013 to recognize 142 servicemen from San Jose. It cost almost half a million dollars from in-kind donations.

    “I’m hurt both for all the work that's been put into it and for not respecting those people that are on that wall and their families who are still here. It's a slap in the face,” said Fernandez.

    The vandalism comes as the country is in mourning over the passing of Senator John McCain, a celebrated Vietnam War hero.

    “I don't think there's any correlation between the two,” said Fernandez. “I just think it's some gang bangers. They knew that was facing the street. My guess is that they don't even know there was a Vietnam War. “

    Eight of the fallen were classmates of Salas's and Fernandez’s at San Jose High School. The foundation hopes to have it repaired by Veteran’s Day.

    “When I look at this, I’m representing the names,” said Salas. “I get angry inside. It hurts.”

    Two years ago, a vandal slapped red paint on the memorial costing $3,000 to fix it. Anyone who wants to help donate can contact the foundation at www.sjwarmemorial.com.

    Source

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  • VNV Donates Kidney

     

    Two Vietnam Veterans who reunited nearly 50 years after they served in the Air Force together now share more than war stories.

    Doug Coffman donated a kidney to Jim McGee on Tuesday, just three months after they reunited since last seeing each other in 1971 at training in California, FOX5DC reported. The two U.S. airmen were catching up at a memorial service for a fellow Vietnam Veteran when Coffman learned McGee needed a new kidney.

    “We have not seen each other face-to-face until we met in Monterey [California] about three months ago, which was an excellent time," McGee told FOX5DC. "Doug, at that point, volunteered a kidney, and to me, it's the gift of life."

    McGee — a retired foreign service officer from Florida and former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe and Madagascar — underwent dialysis three times per week while waiting for a new kidney. He added that he could’ve waited another three to five years if he didn’t reconnect with Coffman.

    "Our blood and tissue type match is good," Coffman said. "And to me, it just is living proof that we're all part of one human family. The chances of our match — I don't know what the odds were, but we beat them."

    Coffman and McGee were admitted MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and underwent the operation on Tuesday. The surgeon said Coffman, 70, had kidneys “like a 35-year-old.”

    McGee told FOX5DC that he’s grateful for the kidney transplant.

    "It means that I can continue the things that I'm so passionate about trying to move ahead," McGee said, about the operation. "One of the things that I'm most passionate about right now is making certain that everyone understands that there's a national crisis — 100,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants, another 15,000 for liver transplants.

    “It's people like Doug who stepped forward and make the difference. That's the real story here today,” he said.

    Source

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