Vietnamese victims of the defoliant Agent Orange, used by the US during the Vietnam War, have joined a group of American war veterans – to try to overturn a court ruling which threw out their attempt for compensation.
The Americans – who have shown late-onset effects of the poison – are not covered by a 1984 legal settlement, when the chemical manufacturers paid out to veterans.
The Vietnamese have never been compensated.
David Klein, from Veterans for Peace, has worked closely with them.
“If you want to end a war, you have to help the victims and the veterans seek justice, and the Vietnamese people are standing up for their rights. As American veterans, we are supporting and want to see that all victims are given some amount of justice,” he said.
Between 1962 and 1971, the American military embarked on a concerted campaign to deny Viet-Cong fighters cover in the dense jungle.
US planes drenched vast swathes of the country in defoliant, dropping 80-million litres of herbicide.
They called it Agent Orange because of the colour of the containers in which it was delivered.
It contained one of the most poisonous substances known to man, a strain of the chemical dioxin known as TCDD.
There had been 6,000 Agent Orange missions by the time the programme ended in 1971.
By that time, the poison had already entered water-courses, and had found its way into the food chain.
Officials from both countries have identified hotspots, where dioxin concentrations were found to be many hundreds of times higher than the US safe level.
Vietnam believes four-million cases of ill-health and disability are linked directly to the spraying – problems ranging from cancer, to miscarriages, to children being born with disabilities, and sometimes missing internal organs.
Dow Chemicals and Monsanto Corporation are just two of ten companies the Vietnamese want to challenge in court. Their lawyer, John Moore, argued the Vietnamese case when a court refused them permission to sue in 2005.
He said: “The chemical companies did not have to produce a product that was laced with poisons. In fact the government asked them to produce a herbicide that was not dangerous to men, or to women or to children, that was the specification in the government contract. So they didn’t have to do that, but they did it – and they knew they were doing it, and they continued to do it – and they did it because they wanted to make money.”