Nearly 700,000 people have signed an international online petition in solidarity with Vietnam's victims of Agent Orange, which was sprayed extensively by the US military during the Vietnam War. The petition, which was launched in 2004, will be presented to the judges of the US Court of Appeal on the eve of an expected June ruling on a victims' lawsuit against the nearly 40 chemical companies that produced the deadly chemical for the US military.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese victims who have died over the years from exposure to Agent Orange, there are an estimated 3 million mostly poverty-stricken victims still living in Vietnam. Of the 80 million litres of herbicides/defoliants that the US military sprayed in Vietnam as a war weapon, more than half were nicknamed Agent Orange, which contains the class-one human carcinogen dioxin.
To garner further support for the victims' case, Andre Bouny, chairperson of the international committee in support of the Vietnamese Agent Orange/Dioxin victims and the New York trial, addressed a March 27 meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Meanwhile, solidarity was also extended by South Korean veterans who fought as US allies in the Vietnam War and, like some US soldiers, also fell victim to the effects of Agent Orange. An estimated 150,000 out of a contingent of 320,000 Korean soldiers were affected. Just 6795 of these were granted a total of US$62 million as compensation by a South Korean court in January 2006.
Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two companies ordered to pay, and both are also being sued by the Vietnamese victims in the US lawsuit. On April 9, a delegation from the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) met with the Korean veterans in Seoul seeking to learn from the Korean court case.