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UNITY - LOVE - RESPONSIBILITY - FOR VICTIMS OF AO POXICOLOGY

Asia-Europe People’s Forum Testimony by Vuong Thi Quyen, Vietnamese AO Victim at the Open Space on War victims and survivors of weapon of mass destruction

My name is Vương Thị Quyên. I was born and grew up in Quang Binh as the youngest of four siblings. At birth, I used to be as physically normal as until I turned 9 years old and got a growing tumour on my back, causing congenital scoliosis (a type of spinal deformity) as the effect of herbicide dioxin Agent Orange inherited from my father.

Hanoi, May 18th , 2021

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends

My name is Vương Thị Quyên. I was born and grew up in Quang Binh as the youngest of four siblings. At birth, I used to be as physically normal as until I turned 9 years old and got a growing tumour on my back, causing congenital scoliosis (a type of spinal deformity) as the effect of herbicide dioxin Agent Orange inherited from my father. In the past, my father took part in the resistance against the US to save the country in the Southeast region and the Central Highlands of Vietnam where the US sprayed Agent Orange - a toxic chemical which caused many diseases, serious health effects and genetic mutations that led to malformations and teratogenicity in the human body.

Vuong thi quyen

Although my family has tried many different treatments, I have been suffering from great pain and my body became more and more skinny as the tumor got bigger over time, making me tired and difficult to walk. At that time, I was so young that I could not think about the challenges ahead. However, the older I grew, the bigger the tumor grew, more pain I had to suffer and more hurt I felt when listening to mocking words, facing with contemptuous behaviour. I felt very sad, embarrassed, hopeless and scared every time I went outside.

Though I am physically weak and my body is unusual, I am mentally strong and I love studying. No disgusting look or disparaging words could make me quit school. I always think in a positive and optimistic way to enjoy my life. Over time, my classmates and other people started to be more friendly and supportive to me.

When I finished high school, I studied Computer Science at Quang Binh University. Then I was hired to work for the Association for Victims of Agent Orange/ Dioxin in Quang Trach District, Quang Binh Province. More than a year later, I won a scholarship to study in Journalism and Communication at NIILM University, India, offered by the program \"Searching for the young female talent\" which were jointly held by the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

Living in India is the most difficult time ever for me because everything is so new to an AO victim like me. After 3 years of hardship, I graduated and returned to Vietnam and worked at the Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin of Quang Binh province for 1 year. Now, I am working at the Social Protection Center of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/ Dioxin.

During the time working for VAVA, I visited and witnessed many victims, who are even in worse conditions than me. I can speak, listen, see, sing, walk but they can’t. Being women, but they are not able to give birth. There are many more people around me living in such misery. We are human, but do not have the right to be a true human being. We are seen just like deformed bodies staying in only one place and having no idea how our future and the world outside.

It is the toxic chemical, which the US sprayed in Southern Vietnam during the war, to which many Vietnamese people were exposed. Then, those unfortunate people gave birth to unhealthy, handicapped children, who are not able to live their daily life normally and independently; thus bringing about huge burdens and distress to their family and to the society.

What happens in Vietnam is similar to Japan during World War II when the two cities of Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were hit by two American atomic bombs. After more than 75 years, a large number of Japanese victims and survivors are suffering from nuclear radiation which cause serious diseases and deformities damaging the health of people and future generations.

Today, I am very honored to represent and speak on behalf of millions of Vietnamese AO victims to raise our voices and express our aspirations. As an AO victim, I understand their suffering and difficulties. \"Agent Orange victims are the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak\", they need assistance and support from communities and society as a whole.

There is a long-standing proverb in Vietnam:“Good leaves protect torn leaves”. In that spirit and with mutual caring and compassion, I hope you and international friends will join hands with us to \"Relieve the pain of AO victims\". It would be a huge source of encouragement to help the victims ease out the burden on their families, as well as gain their confidence to live their future life.

Furthermore, I am willing and hope that you will stand up together with us to counter to warfares, especially those using chemical and nuclear weapons in the world, so that we will no longer see losses, disabilities and separations and our next generations can enjoy the right to be true human beings and the right to live in happiness.

I call on all peace movements and peace-loving people in Asia and Europe, and the world as a whole, for further assistance, support and solidarity with us in our struggle for justice and compensation.

I call upon all governments to join, sign, ratify, respect and implement the Treaty of Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons, stop research, production, trade and use of nuclear weapons and all weapon of mass destruciton; stop the use of force and threat to use force, make a world of peace.

You and I oppose warfare! Let’s work together for a peaceful world!

Thank you very much!.

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