|By Chris Arsenault, AlJazeera, July 23, 2010 |
When Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, visited Vietnam on Thursday she extolled the country’s “unlimited potential” and strong trade relations with the US. But the words must have rung hollow for Ngyuen Ngoc Phuong, who has seen his potential destroyed by American chemical poisoning.
Phuong, 19, was born long after the US cut and run from the Vietnam war, evacuating its last remaining personnel by helicopter from the roof of its Saigon embassy in 1975.
But the results of that war, which officially ended 35 years ago, affect every aspect of Phuong’s life.
The young man has severe physical deformities, and like an estimated three million Vietnamese, he suffers from exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic chemical US forces sprayed during the war to defoliate the dense jungles Viet Cong rebels used for cover.
In its manufacture, the chemical was contaminated with TCDD, or dioxin, “the most toxic substance known to humans”, according to an investigation in the journal Science.