Dear Ms Sorocco Gomes, President of the World Peace Council,
Dear comrades and friends,
Over four years ago, I had a chance to speak at this forum in Kathmandu – capital of Nepal. Today, at São Luis – a beautiful coastal city of legendary Brazil, once again I have the opportunity to be on behalf of more than 3 million victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam to call upon people around the world to strengthen international solidarity against wars, maintain peace and strengthen solidarity in helping victims of wars.
More than four years is not long. Unfortunately in that short time, we have seen more wars and conflicts. Bellicose forces are still deliberately seeking to use weapons for their own benefits. Meanwhile, the wars and conflicts that have been mentioned at the previous assembly are still continuing, or although they ended, the catastrophic consequences left by those wars and conflicts are still causing death, bloodshed, suffering, desolation, chaos and poverty for millions of people. At the same time, the risk of new conflicts still exists in many regions of the world.
Vietnam is one of the countries that are experiencing this situation. The war has ended more than 40 years ago, but hundreds of thousands of families still have not found the remains of their loved ones killed in the war. Of the total 15.53 million tons of bombs rained down on Vietnam (more than 3.9 times of the total number of bombs used in World War II; 12 times of the total number of bombs in the Korean War), there are still 800,000 tons of bombs, mines and explosives hiding under the ground, ready to kill, or steal a body portion of innocent people. On average, each year, more than 1,500 Vietnamese people died and about 2,200 people are injured by landmines that were left over. So far, there have been about 45,000 people dead, 65,000 others injured because of bombs, mines and explosives that have not been removed; about 6.6 million hectares, equivalent to 20% of our country’s total area, is still contaminated with unexploded bombs and landmines. According to the calculations of experts, with the pace of the past few years, it will take more than 100 years to solve the remaining explosives in contaminated areas.
That is not the only terrible consequence of the war that the people of Vietnam are suffering. During the Vietnam War, the US has used toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange, more and longer than any other war in the world. More than 3 million people have been victims of Agent Orange. Hundreds of thousands of them have died. The rest of them are struggling with cruel diseases or having malformations and deformities. Many women cannot become wife and mother. There is a family with 12, among 15 children, died of Agent Orange. There are many families where the mother has to take care of sick father as well as 2-3 children unable to serve themselves. They are the poorest and hardest families in society. That tragedy has been existing for more than 40 years, although the Vietnam government and people and international friends have tried every effort to overcome. Illness caused by Agent Orange has spread to the 3rd generation (the grandchildren) and we do not know when it will finish.
Having endured many wars and still suffering from severe consequences of the prolonged wars, the Vietnam people are longing for peace and desire that there will be no more war on earth. Having fought for decades under bombs and chemical warfare on the battlefield, I personally understand the value of peaceful life.
Therefore, I call for all of us, all those who love peace, freedom, justice, progress to unite more tightly, forming a powerful movement in each country and around the world; to have practical actions to prevent and put an end to the war, ending bloodshed; to help the people of the countries where wars happen; to help them to build a stable life, with human’s basic rights – the right to live in peace and the right to be happy…!
I would like too, on behalf of more than 3 million victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam to urge people of conscience around the world do everything to prevent the manufacture, stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction, so that we and our children do not suffer the tragedy of death and diseases caused by those weapons. I urge everyone to care about the condition of the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, helping them to have normal life like everyone else that they deserve!
Thank you very much!