French-Vietnamese woman’s quest for AO victims

Tran To Nga has been single-minded in her quest in seeking justice for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

Vietnamese Agent Orange victims’ affection for her has been Tran To Nga’s biggest source of motivation in her quest for justice.

A French-Vietnamese woman has returned to her home country to claim damages from the U.S. chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. during the American war in Vietnam, and work together with U.S. filmmakers on a documentary about the issue.

Tran To Nga, a 73-year-old French-Vietnamese woman who is herself a victim of AO/Dioxin, returned to Vietnam in August 2015 with French lawyer William Bourdon to call for more support for the lawsuit she filed in France against 26 U.S. chemical manufacturers in June 2014.

On April 16, 2015, a local court in Evry, France, summoned representatives from the U.S. companies involved for the first hearing.

In her complaint, Nga is suing the U.S. companies for providing toxic chemical weapons used by U.S. forces in Vietnam during the war before 1975.

Recent tests conducted in Germany on Nga with the support of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) showed that she still carries the dioxin in her blood many decades after her exposure.

Agent Orange/Dioxin is used to refer to the herbicides and defoliants sprayed by the U.S. military to destroy crops and trees in Vietnam during wartime.

Apart from devastating ecological effects, the concentration of toxins in the soil and water in affected areas remains hundreds of times greater than levels considered safe and can still create multiple health problems such as deformities, cancer, mental disability, serious skin diseases, cleft palates, and multiple genetic diseases.

Accompanying Nga during the August 2015 visit to Vietnam were U.S. film director Alan Adelson and cameraman Scott Sinkler.

The film crew are working on a documentary entitled “Ngon Den Ky Dieu” (roughly translated as “A Miracle Lamp”), which depicts Nga’s life, her anguish and her quest for justice for AO victims, as well as the legacy of dioxin in Vietnam.

Nga was a correspondent for the Giai Phong (Liberation) News Agency during the war and was affected by AO while working in various areas sprayed with the toxic substance.

She later contracted multiple diseases and went to France for treatment. She then settled down there and became a French national. 

Nga had three children who all were affected by AO, too.

Her eldest child died at 17 months old due to congenital heart defects, while her second daughter inherited a blood disorder (alpha thalassemia) from her. The youngest suffered from a skin disease.

The Vietnamese government has offered Nga 35,000 euros (US$38,265) and the Vietnamese-French community in France has presented her with more than 10,000 euros ($10,932) to support her justice-seeking cause, according to VAVA.

Below are a series of photos by Nguyen An Hieu featuring Nga's journey to fight for justice for AO victims.

These photos were one of the entries to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper's year-long competition themed “Vietnam – Country – People" concluding last month.

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Tran To Nga (front row, pushing the wheelchair) and AO victims and volunteers at a charity walk held in Ho Chi Minh City during her visit to Vietnam in August 2015

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Nga (first right) is not alone in her quest to seek justice for AO victims.

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U.S. cameraman Scott Sinkler accompanies Nga during her visit to Vietnam in August 2015 to work on a documentary on Vietnamese AO victims.

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Many individuals and representatives of different organizations take part in a charity walk dedicated to AO victims in Ho Chi Minh City.

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The U.S. crew film Nga (first right) for a scene in their documentary titled “Ngon Den Ky Dieu” (roughly translated as “A Miracle Lamp”), which depicts Nga’s life, her anguish and her quest for justice for AO victims, and the legacy of dioxin in Vietnam.

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