Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US launches latest clean-up at toxic Vietnam War-era air base




US launches latest clean-up at toxic Vietnam War-era air base

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Vietnamese soldier stands next to a hazardous warning sign by a runway at Bien Hoa air base, on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City on October 17, last year THOMAS WATKINS/AFP

US launches latest clean-up at toxic Vietnam War-era air base

The US launched on Saturday a $183 million clean-up at a former Vietnam storage site for Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used in their bitter war which years later is still blamed for severe birth defects, cancers and disabilities.

Located outside Ho Chi Minh City, Bien Hoa airbase – the latest site scheduled for rehabilitation after Danang airbase’s clean-up last year – was one of the main storage grounds for Agent Orange and only hastily cleared by soldiers near the war’s end more than four decades ago.

US forces sprayed 80 million litres of Agent Orange over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 in a desperate bid to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into ground water and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese – from enlarged heads to deformed limbs.

At Bien Hoa, more than 500,000 cubic metres of dioxin had contaminated the soil and sediment, making it the “largest remaining hotspot” in Vietnam, said a statement from the US development agency USAID, which kicked off a 10-year remediation effort on Saturday.

The dioxin amounts in Bien Hoa are four times more than the volume cleaned up at Danang airport, a six-year $110 million effort which was completed in November.

“The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic,” said the US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, at Saturday morning’s launch attended by Vietnamese military officials and US senators.

Hanoi says up to three million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, and that one million suffer grave health repercussions today – including at least 150,000 children with birth defects.

An attempt by Vietnamese victims to obtain compensation from the US has met with little success. The US Supreme Court in 2009 declined to take up the case while neither the US government nor the manufacturers of the chemical have ever admitted liability.

While US officials have never admitted direct links between Agent Orange and birth defects, USAID on Saturday also issued a “memorandum of intent” to work with government agencies to improve the lives of people with disabilities in seven Vietnamese provinces.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Potential shield’ for virus hangs in balance

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended trials of the drug that US president Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 US citizens. Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential

  • Gov’t rolls out stimulus to keep businesses afloat

    The government has introduced the fourth round of stimulus measures aimed at ensuring economic and social stability during the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease. The move, which was announced on Tuesday, is designed to help businesses, factories and enterprises to stay afloat while reducing the

  • E-cigarette back in spotlight amid virus pandemic

    The Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease (DCD) department has released a video about the effects of smoking, while the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) warned against the use of electronic cigarettes or vape. The short video clip that was posted on

  • Por Sen Chey woman murdered

    Por Sen Chey district police are searching for a suspect who robbed and killed a woman in a rented room in Samraong Kraom commune in Phnom Penh at 6:30pm on Monday. Deputy district police chief Chea Sovann told The Post on Tuesday that the victim,

  • Police chief: remove all roadblocks

    National Police chief Neth Savoeun warned Phnom Penh and provincial police chiefs to remove all roadblocks, saying that traffic police officials in some provinces had tightened traffic law implementation against guidelines. In a leaked voice message which was shared on social media on Tuesday, Savoeun

  • Man held for violating daughter and niece

    Kandal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department officers sent a man to the provincial court on Tuesday after arresting him the day before for allegedly molesting his daughter and niece in Sa’ang district. Department chief Ros Savin said the 30-year-old construction worker was questioned