DIOXIN VICTIMS ARE NOT ALONE – Saigon Times Magazine – Nguyen Truong Uy

I visited the children at the Peace Village this morning with Simon and Phuong and it has prompted me to include this article in my Weblog. Simon is in charge of RMIT Melbourne’s overseas programs and has been up here on a fact finding mission. Phuong lives close by to our house in Vo Van Tan St where her family run a resturaunt and we met her while eating there one night. Phoung is very intelligent, speaks great English, is studying French at the moment and is keen to help out with the children. She has a good idea to help them celebrate the upcoming moon festival but I won’t say any more about her because I know that she will read this grin I think that we were all overwhelmed with the way in which these kids want to interact, they want to be picked up and hugged.

September 3, 2004

An American professor says he will do all to help Vietnamese victims of dioxin receive compensation from the U.S. Government

(QQ)Professor Kenneth J. Herrmann, the director of the Vietnam Program of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport, is also director of the Quang Nam-Danang Fund for Agent Orange Victims. He and his associates were deeply moved when reading a hand-written letter from Pham Ngoc Khuong who lives in Long Thanh Trung Commune of Hoa Thanh District, Tay Ninh Province. It says: “My family is in extreme misery with five children infected with Agent Orange. Pham Ngoc Khang suffered muscular atrophy, lay in the same place and died at age 10. Pham Ngoc Kha is now 30 with four atrophic limbs, so he cannot stand or walk normally.”

Khuong’s letter was one of many letters that were sent to Herrmann directly or through Red Cross chapters. They now make a thick pile.

Read the rest of the article in more….


“Vietnam has thousands or tens of thousands of people having pain from day to day, and families suffering losses, including a small part of my family,” said Nguyen Thi Vien in her letter, sent from Viet Hung Commune of Truc Ninh District, Nam Dinh Province. Her father was a tank driver; he died of dioxin-related cancer. Vien suffers half-body paralysis and her elder sister full-body.

From Binh Dao Commune of Thang Binh District, Quang Nam Province, Mai Thi Ly posed a question in her letter: “When we die, who will bring up our children in this life?” In war years, her family and people in the region usually had to move in the forests, mountains, and valleys to avoid the enemy, but they could not escape dioxin. She produced four children in peace time. The first two died before reaching 10, the third did not have self-control, and the last has Down syndrome.

Letter writers were often veterans, who used to fight in forests sprayed with dioxin by U.S. aircraft during the war, or young people, who were their children and were affected by the dioxin their parents absorbed.

Victims not lonely

The story started from a Month of Action for Agent Orange Victims. Herrmann was invited by the Union of Danang Friendship Organizations to visit an exhibition on the consequences of dioxin, see TV reports and meet victims. He was shocked by what he saw and heard. “I was strongly moved. The feeling of loss and anger arose in me. There are thousands of such victims in Danang. I thought that I should collect their letters of help and send them to the class action lawsuit team,” he said. Then, he sent to the representative office of Vietnam News Agency in Washington a letter calling on Agent Orange victims to speak out. He asked the families of victims to write to the SUNY Vietnam Program office in Danang or email to

Herrmann kept raising the issue of responsibility to the victims. “The U.S. Government must be liable for meeting the medical and social requirements of Vietnamese citizens who were victims of this poison, as well as deal with the environmental problems it caused.” He explained: “Companies that used to make huge profits from selling Agent Orange to the Government have been required by the U.S. Court to compensate victims in the U.S. military. Those companies must hold legal and conscientious responsibilities to the victims in Vietnam.”

Letters of sentiment and pain poured into his office.

After a long-term business trip to Vietnam, Herrmann returned to the U.S., carrying a pile of letters of Agent Orange victims. He asserted in his emails to his associates in Vietnam: “There are friends worldwide who are caring and worrying for them. I want to tell the victims in Vietnam that they are not alone with the pain they and their families have to bear.”

“Tears to be replaced with smiles” is the slogan of the Quang Nam-Danang Fund, set up when Herrmann went back to Vietnam in 1999 to develop the SUNY training program in Vietnam. He had served in the U.S. military in Hien, in Quang Nam, from May 1968 to May 1969. Back in Vietnam, he realized his responsibility. “The war in Vietnam makes me aware that I must have responsibilities to this land,” he said. The Quang Nam-Danang Fund has set a target that every year it helps 500 poor families and provide scholarships and medical access for children and cripples in Danang, and support a number of small programs for war victims.

The post-war suffering and changes of Vietnam are recorded by Herrmann in his 246-page book, Lepers and Lunacy: An American in Vietnam Today. This book has been issued in the U.S. by BookSurge Publishers and is being translated into Vietnamese by Phuong Nam General Culture Company. “When seeing poverty and pain left from the war, I cannot help speaking out. I admire the victims’ endurance and I will do all I can do to achieve justice,” he said.