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Agent Orange victims Fighting for justice

Tran To Nga, 79, owning Vietnamese and French nationalities, suffering illness due to Agent Orange chemicals. In the past decades, overcoming the pain, difficulties, and countless obstacles, she has persistently demanded justice for thousands of Agent Orange/dioxin victims.

Tran To Nga's lawsuit has gone through more than 10 years of hardship. Her love, sacrifice, and determination moved and attracted millions of people around the world to support bringing the case to its current place.

May 2009: Nga, who contracted a number of acute diseases, appeared as a witness at the Court of Public Opinion in Paris against the 37 US chemical companies.

She did not back down. A test conducted in 2011 showed that their health problems were directly linked with the chemicals. Finally, she could take the lawsuit to the court.

Agent Orange victims Fighting for justice

Nga was the perfect candidate: She is the only plaintiff who can sue firms that had made and traded dioxin on behalf of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. She is a victim herself and a Vietnamese-French citizen who lives in the only country that allows its citizens to turn to the courts for justice against foreign attacks.

For two years (2011 to 2013), Nga had a lot to do to prepare the paperwork for her lawsuit. During this period, she had to convince and get the endorsement of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) members.

In March 2013, she could finally get to the court. However, she encountered another problem: money. She had to have an international lawyer translate an indictment of 30 pages from French to English aside from other related fees. In all, she needed about $36,000 euros.

Her lawyers held a meeting, gathering around 20 people that Nga "had never met before." Among them were overseas Vietnamese, French people, and some that had joined the war as soldiers fighting for the South Vietnamese side backed by the U.S., which means they were once Nga’s rivals. Nga and the lawyers tried to explain the cause of her trial and why it was essential. In just one week, she received $16,000 from the people who attended the meeting. The rest of the sum was raised by the VAVA via different sources.

In March 2013, the Crown Court of Evry city approved her petition for the case.

In April 2014, the court opened the first procedural session. A total of 26 chemical companies were sued in the beginning, but 12 of them have been sold or shut down over the past years.

On June 29, 2020, the court finally issued a notice in her case and directed that procedural sessions be closed on September 28, so that the trial with litigation sessions could begin on October 12 the same year.

The trial opened on January 25, 2021.

The court’s ruling is scheduled for May 10, 2021. However, the court said it did not have jurisdiction to judge a case involving the US Government’s wartime actions, ruling that the US firms were acting on orders from the US Government which was engaged in a “sovereign act”. Those multinational companies had argued they could not be held legally responsible for how the U.S. military had decided to use their product.

Nga emphasised that she will be at the forefront of a march in Paris on May 15 to oppose Monsanto and reiterate the lawsuit.

Her lawsuit states that the law is not an excuse for companies producing Agent Orange/dioxin.

Valerie Mai

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