HANOI - Vietnam War veterans from the United States, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam gathered on Tuesday to call for more help for the victims of the Agent Orange defoliant used by the U.S. military.
Deformed children born to parents Vietnam believes were affected by the estimated 20 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, poured on the country were brought to the conference as dramatic evidence of its effects.
"The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam produced unacceptable threats to life, violated international law and created a toxic wasteland that continued to kill and injure civilian populations long after the war was over," said Joan Duffy from Pennsylvania.
A view of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it crosses the Rinh River near the village of Thanh Liem, in an undated photo. Vietnam War veterans from the United States, South Korea, Australia and Vietnam gathered on Tuesday to call for more help for the victims of the Agent Orange defoliant used by the U.S. military. REUTERS/File
Duffy who served in a U.S. military hospital in Vietnam in 1969-1970, said the Agent Orange used there was more toxic than usual.
"In an effort to work faster and increase production of Agent Orange, the chemical companies paid little attention to quality control issues," she said.
"The Agent Orange destined for Vietnam became much more highly contaminated with dioxin as the result of sloppy, hasty manufacturing," she told the conference in Hanoi.
Last March, a federal court dismissed a suit on behalf of millions of Vietnamese who charged the United States committed war crimes by its use of Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, to deny communist troops ground cover.
The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) has filed an appeal, saying assistance was needed urgently as many were dying.
The U.S. appeals court was expected to make a decision in April.
Dioxin can cause cancer, deformities and organ dysfunction. Manufacturers named in the suit included Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co..
VAVA chairman Dang Vu Hiep said Vietnam's lawsuit against U.S. chemical manufacturers was meant not only to help Vietnamese victims, but also victims in other countries.
In January, a South Korean appeals court ordered Dow Chemical Co and Monsanto Co. to pay $65 million in damages to 20,000 of the country's Vietnam War veterans for exposure to defoliants such as Agent Orange.
Due to problems arising from jurisdiction and the amount of time that has elapsed since the war, legal experts said it will be cumbersome or perhaps impossible for the South Korean veterans to collect damages.
The chemical remains in the water and soil, scientists say.
"Thirty years after the fire ceased, many Vietnamese are still dying due to the effect of toxic chemicals sprayed by the U.S. forces in Vietnam and many Vietnamese will still be killed by the chemicals," said Bui Tho Tan, a war reporter who suffers from throat cancer.
"Those who committed the crime must be punished," he said.
© Reuters 2006