COMMENT |Reading a recent wire service report in AP about seeking justice for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, I was reminded of a letter I had written to The Star, nearly 40 years ago. The AP's article refers to the case in the French court taken up by a French-Vietnamese woman Tran To Nga who is suing 14 companies that produced and sold the powerful defoliant dioxin used by US troops during the Vietnam War. Here were echoes of a letter on this subject I had written to The Star dated March 30, 1984:
“It is a national tragedy that we had to wait until the lifting of the 30-year secrecy rule in Britain before we realised the scandal that our country (Malaya) was the first country on earth to fall victim to Agent Orange.”
In 1984, the British journal New Scientist revealed that the British army had used a herbicide identical to Agent Orange during the emergency in Malaya (1948-60). But it was not an “exclusive” – four years before that, when the Soviet Union was being accused of using chemical warfare against the Afghan people, the French Le Monde Diplomatique had revealed that the British army had also done the same in Malaya during the emergency.
In my article, I pointed out that it was criminal that British officials, ICI (the chemical company involved) and Malayan officials had kept all this health hazard from the public. Until 1984, only those records relating to events up to 1952 had been revealed and they showed that at least 20 sites in west Pahang had been sprayed with this toxic herbicide.