“We believe Monsanto should be held responsible for compensating Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange for the damage caused by the company’s herbicides,” deputy foreign ministry spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Tra

by Ralph Jennings, VOA News

TAIPEI – Vietnam is demanding compensation from manufacturers of Agent Orange in what experts describe as a last resort for helping citizens who still fall sick or face disabilities linked to the defoliant the United States used during war in the country five decades ago.

The foreign ministry in Hanoi asked Thursday that Monsanto and other U.S. firms compensate victims of Agent Orange, the Vietnamese news outlet VnExpress International reported.

Vietnam made the demand after a U.S. jury ordered Monsanto to pay damages to an American cancer patient with claims that he was exposed to a weed killer produced by the same company.

Vietnam’s latest demand, emboldened by the U.S. jury’s decision, follows the 2005 loss of a class action lawsuit brought by Vietnamese citizens to a federal judge in New York.

The government also hopes to avoid a world court filing, which would be state-to-state rather than aimed at a company and could hurt otherwise stable political relations with the United States, said Trung Nguyen, director of the Center for International Studies at Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“Vietnam sees the verdict against Monsanto as setting legal precedent which overrides previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto are harmless,” said Murray Hiebert, deputy director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Previously, legal efforts to link dioxin and birth defects failed in the U.S. courts.”

American military aircraft used Agent Orange to clear jungles in Vietnam and expose enemy soldiers from 1961 through 1971. Its residue dioxin is believed to be a “risk factor” for health problems, said Charles Bailey, author of the book “From Enemies to Partners—Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange.” About 800,000 Vietnamese people get assistance now for illness and disabilities because of exposure, he said.

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