US firms behind Agent Orange stand trial in France


A French court on Monday began hearing the case of Trân Tô Nga, a 78-year-old woman of joint Vietnamese and French nationality who fell victim to the herbicidal chemical cocktail known as Agent Orange, massively employed by US forces during the Vietnam War. Her civil complaint targets more than 20 US chemical firms for their part in the production of Agent Orange, to which almost five million of the Vietnamese population are estimated to have been, like herself, directly exposed, causing deaths, diseases and also malformations among their descendants. François Bougon reports on what Trân Tô Nga and her supporters hope will be an historic trial following the rebuttal of victims’ complaints before US courts.

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Trân Tô Nga is a veteran combatant with the gift of a disarming smile. To the journalists who had come to listen to her last week at the Paris headquarters of the General Union of the Vietnamese of France, she announced that “I want to give you a smile in thanks”, and her face, until then solemn, lit up. It was a winning smile, but this 78-year-old of joint French-Vietnamese nationality knows she will need much more than that to win over France’s justice system when her long battle for justice begins in a French court on Monday.