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It’s a race against time for Tran To Nga. At 78 years old, this Franco-Vietnamese has been fighting for years on behalf of the victims of “Agent Orange”, a powerful herbicide used during the Vietnam War and responsible for numerous cancers and genetic malformations. The court of Evry (Essonne) received its complaint, filed in May 2014 against 26 multinationals which manufactured these chemicals. Among them: Monsanto and Dow Chemicals. The oral hearing, initially scheduled for last October, is due to take place on Monday January 25.
“The Agent Orange drama must be known to the world”, explains Tran To Nga to franceinfo *. She wants justice to recognize the responsibility of companies in the dispersion of toxic products, symbols of the chemical war started in Vietnam by American forces held in check. So, ebetween 1965 and 1973, dhe US Air Force planes dump 80 million liters of this agent orange, which contains dioxins, over the country’s forests. The objective is in particular to eliminate the vegetation where the fighters of the Vietcong, the nationalist and communist armed force, are hiding.
The consequences are disastrous for nature and for millions of inhabitants, but also for thousands of Vietnam veterans: cancer, congenital malformations, diseases of the nervous system. The damage is felt several years after the spraying. Tran To Nga, a former liaison officer for the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and then war correspondent for the Liberation Information Agency, came into contact with the herbicide. “I received the poison directly. I also waded in ponds, in ponds, where there were lots of dead leaves, poison”, she confides.
She lost her first daughter, born with a heart defect. Her second daughter also suffers from heart defects. She herself suffers from many illnesses.
“I have heart problems, I have had tuberculosis twice. Lung diseases are typical illnesses for victims of dioxin.”
In the 1980s, several firms, including Monsanto, signed an amicable agreement with American veterans. In exchange for stopping the prosecution, they paid $ 250 million in compensation, recalls International mail. In 2013, the South Korean justice ordered Monsanto and Dow Chemicals to compensate 39 Vietnam War veterans contaminated by this defoliant, up to 315,000 euros, reports France 24.
On the other hand, the Vietnamese victims have so far obtained nothing. “The Vietnamese state being unable to bring anything vis-à-vis the United States, of which it seeks today a form of protection vis-à-vis China, the complaints can only come from private initiatives, hence that of Madame Tran To Nga currently at the court of Evry, in France “, explains to RFI André Bouny, authors of several reference books on Agent Orange.
If justice is favorable to Tran To Nga, it would therefore be a first for a Vietnamese victim: “I don’t have the right to be discouraged or to quit. I’m almost 80 years old. I’m the only person who can do this. If I disappear, then everything will disappear with me.”
* Report produced by Linh-Lan Dao, Pascal Caron, Pascal Crapoulet, Rénald Perquis