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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 19:13 GMT
Vietnamese file Agent Orange suit
Vietnam war children affected by Agent Orange
Agent Orange has been linked to disabilities in children
Vietnamese victims have filed their first lawsuit against US companies that produced the toxic defoliant used by American forces during the Vietnam War.

A newly-formed victims' group submitted the suit on behalf of two women and a man to a US federal court.

American veterans exposed to the herbicide, known as Agent Orange, have complained for years about health problems and sued some of the makers.

The group says about three million people suffer from side effects.

Between 1962 and 1971, US planes sprayed millions of gallons of the defoliant across parts of Vietnam to deny the communists food and jungle cover.

The US stopped spraying in 1971 after it was discovered that it contained the most dangerous form of dioxin, TCDD, and caused cancer in rats.

On behalf of victims

The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange submitted the suit to the US Federal Court in New York on 30 January.

Herbicide used to clear vegetation, denying enemy forces cover
Name derives from orange markings on the drums the chemical was shipped in
The group went to the federal court due to its experience with cases filed by former American soldiers, said its vice president, Nguyen Trong Nhan.

All three plaintiffs had worked in areas sprayed with Agent Orange, Mr Nhan was reported as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

One female plaintiff suffered four miscarriages while the other has breast cancer. The man also has cancer and has two children with birth defects, the news agency reported.

"I do not want to do this for myself as it has been a long time already," a plaintiff named as Phan Thi Phi Phi told Reuters news agency.

"But in Vietnam, the poorest, the most miserable and the most discriminated ones are the Agent Orange victims so anything I can do for them, I will," she said.

The independent lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensation for the health problems allegedly caused by the toxic defoliant.

At least 10 US companies are named in the suit.

US denial

Many American veterans have blamed Agent Orange for health problems including cancer, diabetes and spina bifida.

The US Government says there is no direct evidence linking dioxin with the illnesses.

But about 10,000 Vietnam War veterans in the US allegedly receive disability benefits related to Agent Orange exposure.

Hanoi has never formally asked for compensation for the victims of Agent Orange.

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