VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam has always rejected chemical weapons – the weapons of mass destruction that are condemned by mankind.

The world says “no" to chemical weapons


US aircrafts sprayed toxic chemicals in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

After nuclear weapons, chemical weapons are one of the most destructive weapons, causing mass destruction because chemicals (sometimes called military poisons) in this type of weapon have a common character - highly toxic, fast-acting to cause major losses to the enemy or direct hazard for many people, animals and plants in general.

There are many kinds of chemical weapons, classified in two ways. The first is in the way of harmful effects for humans and plants, such as asphyxiation chemical weapons, chemical weapons causing nerve damage, chemical weapons causing skin ulcers and chemical weapons destroying plants. The second is based on the subjects: chemical weapons destroying vitality and chemical weapons destroying plants.

Owing to the great harm to humans and the environment, most countries in the world agree to add chemical weapons in the list of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons.

These kinds of weapons are on the specifically prohibited list. For chemical weapons, the most important international legal document is the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the prohibition of development, prohibition of production, ban of store and use and provisions for the destruction of chemical weapons.

This convention is managed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an independent organization based in Hague, the Netherlands, with the participation of representatives of national members that have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.

As of June 2013, 189 countries are members of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Two countries - Israel and Myanmar - have signed but not yet ratified it and five countries - Angola, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan and Syria - have not signed the convention.

Thus, most countries in the world have committed to "say no" to chemical weapons. However, between the "saying no" or signing the convention and the thorough implementation of it may have "exception" circumstances.

Vietnam actually rejects chemical weapons

Vietnam is one of the 189 member countries of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Vietnam signed the convention as early as 20 years ago, in 1993, and ratified it five years later, in August 1998. In addition, Vietnam also issued a decree to implement the Convention in 2005.

Also, in December 1980, Vietnam joined a protocol (called the Geneva Protocol 1925) on the prohibition of the use in war the substances making suffocation, poisons or toxic gases.

Vietnam not only said “no" to chemical weapons through the above international and national legal documents, the country has denied making this dangerous weapon in reality.

The chemical industry in Vietnam, in fact, makes up a small percentage of the whole industry in the country. The chemical enterprises in Vietnam are only interested in serving the economy and the lives of people. They focus heavily on producing fertilizers, pesticides and petrochemicals.

In limited extent, Vietnam also exports a number of chemicals used in civilian industry. This activity, of course, must pass a licensing system in place to control the export duties in accordance with the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Obviously, as with nuclear weapons, Vietnam is completely unfamiliar with intent in fact there is no action in relation to the manufacture of any kind of chemical weapons.

"Vietnam does not own nuclear, biological or chemical weapons or programs to develop such weapons, and is a party to most of the non-proliferation treaties and the related agreements, etc. ...," confirmed the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NIT), an internationally renowned non-governmental organization.

Vietnam – a victim of chemical weapons


Vietnamese AO victims.

The war that the United States conducted in Vietnam ended nearly 40 years ago, but a number of territories in Vietnam and millions of people in Vietnam have and are still suffering from serious consequences of Agent Orange/dioxin that the U.S. military sprayed during the Vietnam War.

Mr. Nguyen Van Rinh, chairman of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) stated: On November 20, 1961, the U.S. Government officially approved for the U.S. Army to conduct a defoliation campaign. After test flights, on August 10, 1961 U.S. military aircrafts began a campaign to spray defoliant in South Vietnam, along Road 14 from northern Kon Tum to Dak To.

During the 10 years, from 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed some 80 million liters of toxic chemicals, 61 percent of which was Agent Orange, containing 366 kg of dioxin, in nearly one quarter of the total area of South Vietnam, including most of the ecosystems from the high mountains to the coastal lowlands. The dioxin destroyed the ecosystems and was deeply infected in soil, water, food, causing cancer and birth defects in humans.

Specifically, 4.8 million people in Vietnam were exposed to and more than 3 million people of many generations are victims of Agent Orange/dioxin. Many families have up to 4-5 victims, who cannot work to sustain life while suffering from chronic diseases. These people are in extremely difficult circumstances. Not only Vietnamese, but also many American, Korean, Australian, New Zealand soldiers who fought in Vietnam and have previous exposure to many diseases due to Agent Orange.

According to the definition of chemicals in weapons, the Agent Orange that was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War is a kind of "military chemical" or chemical weapon. But the U.S. is still trying to shirk responsibility, reject petitions against the companies that manufactured and supplied chemicals to the U.S. military during the war, with the plaintiff as Vietnamese victims, whose representative is the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin.

The U.S. Court twice ignored the truth and tried to go around with the definitions -- such as dioxin is not a toxic prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention, or asking the Vietnamese victims to provide concrete evidence for the connection between defoliant with cancer or malformation of the descendants of the victims.

It is absurd when in fact the U.S. government agreed to pay compensation for their veterans who were infected with dioxin in the Vietnam War.

The story must come to an end

The U.S. Army military used chemicals or chemical weapons 40, 50 years ago but the compensation for tens of thousands of families, millions of victims have not been resolved.

One of the barriers set by the U.S. is "proof," especially the evidence for the links between defoliant and cancer.

But quite unexpectedly, a result recently published by a research team, not in Vietnam but in the United States, has attracted special attention of the public: Agent Orange/dioxin used by the U.S. in the Vietnam War not only caused consequences for Vietnamese but also for the American veterans.

According to Reuters, the research work was conducted by Dr. Mark Garzotto and colleagues at the Portland Health Center for Veterans (Oregon, USA) to find a link between Agent Orange with the prostate cancer.

The researchers analyzed the medical records of 2,720 veterans who did a prostate biopsy. Each 1/13 of them were exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. About 900 people or 33 percent of the veterans were diagnosed with prostate cancer, of which approximately half of them caused aggressive and fast-growing prostate cancer.

After considering age, race, weight, and history of cancer in families of veterans, the group concluded that those who were exposure to Agent Orange are at higher risk of catching prostate cancer by 52 percent higher than those who are not exposed to Agent Orange.

Many newspapers and media outlets in the U.S. such as CBS News and Reuters quoted surgery expert David Samadi, who is not in the research team, as saying that the time and level of exposure with dioxin can alter DNA and push cells into the different development cycles that produce cancer cells.

With the results of this new study, the chairman of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin said: "We are preparing legal basis to prepare a new lawsuit. This is completely a civil action by the victims who live near the hotspots and have daily exposure to the air, water, and food that are affected with AO."

Unlike the previous cases, in which the plaintiffs are the people who are directly affected by Agent Orange/dioxin, in the upcoming lawsuit, the victims are the second and the third generation victims, including women and children living in hot spots around the airports of Da Nang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat.

The unraveling of the concepts, language, legal citing, etc. is also necessary and may need more time. But the responsibility to identify, implement liable for thousands of families, millions of people in Vietnam, as well as tens of thousands of American soldiers who have been dying, suffering pains should not be further delayed.

It is not only the call of humanity, the decorum of a nation, but also the call of justice and truth in the present era of civilization.

Tran Minh