With 3 million people infected and 4.8 million people exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin, the damage and pain that Vietnamese people have to endure is very extreme. Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh - President of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) – answered the interview of reporter from Ho Chi Minh City Women's Newspaper about this issue.
Many families no longer have descendant
Reporter: Sir, according to published data, Vietnam has 3 million victims and 4.8 million people exposed to Agent Orange, but only a few hundred thousand people are entitled to beneficial policies. You once said that, among the policy beneficiaries, victims of Agent Orange are most prone to shortcomings. Could you tell me more about this problem?
Sr. Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Rinh: The first problem is that they lack credentials for their participation in the resistance war and their exposure to Agent Orange. Most of the victim veterans still lack this type of documents and records.
Second, among the types of diseases entitled to the policy, type-2 diabetes of AO victims and that of normal people have different factors. Other diseases, such as acute neuritis, are said to occur only during the time the victim is hospitalized. In general, there are still many diseases that are hard to be proved to have link with Agent Orange.
Another problem is that, now, when implementing the Prime Minister's Decision No. 120/2004/QD-TTg dated July 5, 2004 on some regimes for war participants and their children infected with toxic chemicals, some people in some localities are no longer entitled to the policies for AO victims. For example, in Thai Binh province, some thousand people are excluded when implementing Decision No. 120/2004/QD-TTg.
VAVA has advised to the Party and the State to consider and recognize those who participated in the resistance war but unfortunately lost their credentials, so that we can provide fair treatment, not to miss those who have done meritorious services to the country. The association also proposed to study and publicize exposed areas, units operating in the battlefields exposed to or sprayed with AO many times. That is one of the ways to find subjects infected with Agent Orange. However, this is only part of the matter, as on the same battlefield, some people were exposed, while others were not.
|Sr. Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Rinh
* Could you please review the damage that Agent Orange has inflicted on the families of veterans, including your former comrades?
- Many families and clans no longer have descendants. Among my comrades, some are unable to have children. There are families with up to six children infected with AO, all of whom are unable to take care of themselves and do not live long. Most of them die at the age of about 30-40. Such cases are many.
* The number of people entitled to beneficial policies is still too small compared to the number of people infected and affected by AO. So, how do we help raising this ratio, sir?
- I think, first, we need to step up propaganda, especially the media, so that the whole society joins hands to alleviate the pain of Agent Orange altogether. Second, it is necessary to settle the regime and policies thoroughly for veterans who are affected and exposed to AO. Third, special consideration should be given to support families with many children infected with AO. Fourth, it is also necessary to have policies for those who have not yet concluded that they are infected with AO but actually have related diseases. For example, do we need to ask for credentials of the veterans that have contracted cancers as they can’t live long? As for the ones whose benefits are cut off, it is necessary to have a double check to see if they are eligible, and whether their children are exposed to AO or not. Those are very specific issues.
Currently, there are roughly 300,000 war veterans and nearly 100,000 children who are AO victims that are entitled to beneficial regimes. The rest have lost their credentials or cannot prove their illness. In addition to the veterans, there are a large number of civilian people who exposed to AO, mostly whom live in the South. These people have recently received a subsidy of about 3 million VND/month, which is a social assistance. They are not recognized as policy beneficiaries or people with meritorious services.
Dioxin causes water pollution
* Sir, with the AO contaminated land and environment, what are the difficulties in the treatment of pollution?
- Currently, the main treatment method is landfilling so that dioxin does not diffuse into the environment. People dig a pool of a stadium size and about 2-3m depth, covered with plastic lining. After pouring contaminated soil, they cover it with another layer of plastic. Then the surface of the pool is concreted. This burial pool is like a repository for dioxin-contaminated soil. But before the process, for decades, the poisons have already affected the sediment.
In addition, there are also dioxin-contaminated lands treated with American technology (such as Da Nang Airport). After treatment, the soil is recovered and becomes arable. In the US technology, the contaminated soil is collected and heated to evaporate dioxin. This method cannot be applied in swampy and standing water areas. In lagoons, ponds and lakes, toxic dioxins have penetrated into the sediment with up to 4m depth. Therefore, it is very difficult to treat thoroughly. If we want to treat it thoroughly, we have to drain all the water in the lake, then remove the mud layer of the lake and apply the technology as done at Da Nang Airport.
* The US government and chemical companies have compensated for American soldiers infected with AO when participated in the war in Vietnam. However, they haven’t compensated for Vietnamese AO victims. The US has just supported us $20 million. Can you elaborate on this amount?
- It should be clear that, this amount of money is not the compensation for damage we suffer, but rather to build rehabilitation centers and subsidize victims in eight provinces. Currently, the US has used up that amount and will disburse another USD 30 million in 2021. In January, they committed an amount of USD 65 million from non-refundable ODA for this purpose. /.