France rejects claims over Agent Orange


Making a stand: Tran waving as she delivers a speech in support of people exposed to Agent Orange in Paris in this January photo. — AP

A French court threw out a lawsuit by a French-Vietnamese woman against more than a dozen multinationals that produced and sold a toxic herbicide dubbed “Agent Orange”, used by US troops during the war in Vietnam.

Filed in 2014, the case has pitched Tran To Nga, a 79-year-old who claims she was a victim of Agent Orange, against 14 chemical firms, including US companies Dow Chemical and Monsanto, now owned by Germany’s Bayer.

Tran To Nga told Reuters the case had been thrown out but that she would appeal.

Tran, who worked as a journalist and activist in Vietnam in her 20s, has said she was suffering from effects including type 2 diabetes and a rare insulin allergy.

US warplanes dropped about 68 million litres of Agent Orange – so-called because it was stored in drums with orange bands – between the early 1960s and early 1970s to defoliate jungles and destroy crops.

The multinationals had argued they could not be held responsible for use the US military made of their product.

The court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to judge a case involving the US government’s wartime actions, AFP reported.

One of Tran’s lawyers, William Bourdon, said it was “astounding” that the court had backed the companies’ contention that they were acting on orders when responding to US government tenders for contracts.

There was no immediate reaction from the companies.

Vietnam blames it for severe birth defects in 150,000 children.

But so far, only military veterans – from the United States, Australia and Korea – have won compensation for the aftereffects of the highly toxic chemical.

The United States has maintained there is no scientifically proven link between the wartime spraying and the claims of dioxin poisoning of many Vietnamese. — Agencies

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