Last year, India asked the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to discontinue Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the upcoming London Olympics, citing the American corporation’s links to Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak that killed 2,500 people.
Now Vietnam is calling for Dow to quit the games because of the company’s record in producing the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, writes the Thanh Nien News, an influential newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City.
The United States military used Agent Orange extensively in the Vietnam War. Contained in drums with orange stripes (hence the name), the defoliant was sprayed on farms and forests to deprive the communist North Vietnamese and their allies of food and cover.
The systematic dumping caused death, disease and genetic deformities among millions of Vietnamese, including generations born 40 years after the war ended in 1975. The poison continues to contaminate Vietnam’s ecosystem and food chain, the newspaper reports.
The News says Vietnamese government recently sent a letter to the IOC expressing “profound concerns” about Dow’s involvement in the Olympics, which are due to start in less than two months.
“What is worth condemning is the fact that despite [international opinion], Dow Chemical expressed their indifference and refused compensation for the victims of Agent Orange produced by the company, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas,” according to the letter.
The paper quotes a Dow spokesman dismissing the letter as “misguided” and wrongly focused,” while the IOC said it carefully studied the history of the company and found it “committed to good corporate citizenship.”
But leftist American political author Noam Chomsky is siding with Vietnam, saying it is “entirely appropriate” for the government to object to Dow’s sponsorship, the paper reports. “The use of Agent Orange was a major war crime. The victims have been largely ignored, another crime,” Chomsky said.
Washington has largely rebuffed efforts to be held responsible for the ill effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, though the U.S. government has promised to help clean up contaminated airports formerly used by American troops.
Ironically, Dow and Monsanto, another Agent Orange producer, are now conducting business in Vietnam.
But if the chairman of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange could have his way, the two companies would pack up and leave, the paper reported. “My ultimate goal is to push the government to get both Dow and Monsanto out of Vietnam,” he said.