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Kedgley to speak at int'l Agent Orange conference

27 March 2006

Sue Kedgley to speak at international Agent Orange conference

The New Zealand Government should support the Vietnamese in their efforts to get official recognition and compensation for the victims of Agent Orange and other toxic defoliants that were used during the Vietnam War, according to Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

Ms Kedgley is speaking at an International Conference of the Victims of Agent Orange in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is being held on 28 and 29 March.

"I believe New Zealand, having fought alongside the Americans in the Vietnam War, has a strong moral responsibility to help solve the enormous and ongoing humanitarian and environmental problem that we helped to create," Ms Kedgley says.

"There are an estimated one million Vietnamese, including thousands of children, who are still suffering from health effects as a result of exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic defoliants that were sprayed for nine years during the Vietnam War.

"It's time that we also took the lead in calling on the US Government, and the international community generally, to support and compensate the Vietnamese for the toxic environment they were exposed to.

"The Vietnamese people have never been compensated for the health and environmental effects of Agent Orange. Second and third generation children are still being born with deformities as a result of their parents' exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals," Ms Kedgley says.

The US government recognises 13 illnesses caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and provides free medical treatment for US veterans who fought in the Vietnam War.

"The US Government has a moral obligation to help treat Vietnamese victims as well as its own soldiers. Chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange paid $180 million in compensation to foreign soldiers who fought in Vietnam in an out of court settlement in 1984, but have never offered compensation to the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese whose lives have been destroyed," Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley also said she was appalled at recent allegations that medical records relating to the effect of Agent Orange on New Zealand veterans had been wiped.

"The Green Party strongly supports the need for an inquiry into who gave orders for the medical files to be removed and for the Government to fund testing on veterans to assess whether they suffer from dioxin poisoning, "Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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