Chemical weapons: Nobel Peace prize winners and Vietnam victims
2013 Nobel Peace Prize
President Barroso expressed the European Commission’s sincere congratulations to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2013:
“The decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is a powerful recognition of the important role of the OPCW in curbing the use of chemical weapons. The EU is determined to assist in the destruction of the stock of chemical weapons. About 100 years ago, during World War I,
Europe has experienced the suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons itself.
Syria now demonstrates that these abhorrent acts are still not eradicated from human behaviour. The OPCW faces an unprecedented challenge in its current effort in Syria, where its joint mission with the United Nations is being actively supported by the European Union. The international community carries a collective responsibility to end the use of chemical weapons once and for all. The OPCW plays a key role in this collective effort, which the European Union fully supports, politically and by being the biggest contributor to OPCW (…)”.
A Battle Unending: The Vietnam War and Agent Orange
Nguyen Nguc Phuong is 33 years of age and a confident, articulate public speaker – comfortable on a podium in front of an audience. He is resourceful and self-motivated, as seen in his decision to leave school at 16 and relocate to Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, to learn to be a mechanic and an electrician.
Nguyen later returned to his hometown of Danang, one of Vietnam’s touristy cities, and opened his own repair shop. However, after seeing the impact of Agent Orange – a defoliant sprayed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy the crops and jungle upon which the Viet Cong relied for food and cover – he decided he wanted to volunteer his time to help the children born mentally or physically handicapped due to the herbicide’s tragic and grotesque effects.
“I wanted to become a teacher to do something for them,” he says, pointing out to over 40 children and teenagers at the Danang Peace Village – a center run by the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin to care for children and teenagers affected by Agent Orange.
But Nguyen’s story is not typical of a thirty-something bored with a day-job and seeking a socially-responsible career break.
Nguyen Nguc Phuong’s father fought in central and southern Vietnam for 10 years up to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, and sometime, somewhere along the way, came in contact with some of the 76 million liters of Agent Orange that was sprayed on the Vietnamese countryside up.
As a result, Nguyen is only 95 centimeters (a little over 3 feet) tall and weighs in at a meager 20 kilograms (approximately 44 pounds). “My sister is the same size like me” he says. “When I was born I weighed only 800 grams and was less than 20cm long.”