|Seeing orange: MP George Howarth said that he and his colleagues strongly and personally felt that they should do something to help improve the lives of Agent Orange victims. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngan Binh
Quotes from Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Vu Quang Minh:
"MP George Howarth is a truly great friend of Viet Nam; he has an extremely busy schedule, but devotes a lot of time to the strengthening of UK-Viet Nam relations and pays attention to a number of important issues in Viet Nam, including the East Sea and economic and social development of the country.
"He organises regular meetings between the APPG and Vietnamese Ambassador as well as delegations from Vietnam. He hosted a luncheon for the Chairman of Viet Nam's National Assembly, Mr. Nguyen Sinh Hung and his delegation last December, and one for the Vietnamese delegations to the first UK-Viet Nam Strategic Dialogue.
"He is a highly intelligent and a devoted high-ranking public figure with great leadership visions, but nevertheless, a humble and friendly person."
The British All Party Parliament Group on Viet Nam is going to organise a reception to raise funds for a cancer hospital in Da Nang and the victims of Agent Orange in HCM City. Labour MP George Howarth spoke to Vu Ngan Binh
* about the event.British Labour MP George Howarth visited Viet Nam in December last year in a trip called Friends of Vietnam Study Mission, organised by the Vietnamese Embassy to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. During this trip, Howarth and other members of the delegation called on Hoa Binh Village in Tu Du Hospital, HCM City, where victims of the defoliant Agent Orange used during the American War are cared for. Howarth said he was shocked to see the severity of children's disabilities and to learn from the doctors of those that are still suffering from its effects so many years after the end of the war in 1975. He said he learned about the specific legacy of the war, but "it is my first time seeing the horrific consequences on children today".
Earlier in August, some of his colleagues also made the visit to the village and shared the same strong concerns. Howarth said: "We have strong and personal feelings that if we can raise some money to provide additional staff and other supports for the victims in the hospital, it will add quality to the lives of those children."
Thus the auction to raise funds is one of the two purposes of the reception, Howarth said. While the coming reception is designed to celebrate the growing trade between the UK and Viet Nam, its second purpose is to have an auction to raise funds to help the victims mentioned above. The APPG** on Vietnam that he chairs made a commitment to hold an event on June 18 at Portcullis House to raise funds. He said half of the proceeds would go to help the victims of AO in Hoa Binh Village in Tu Du Hospital and the rest of it would be given to Da Nang Cancer Hospital.
Senior officials will be at the reception, including the UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne and Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Vu Quang Minh who will say a few words at the meeting. A number of senior representatives from British companies doing business in Viet Nam and Vietnamese companies will also be at the event.
The chairman of the APPG said that they had got confirmation for tickets from Vietnam Airlines and Singapore Airlines to be auctioned at the event. They also have promises from three leaders of the major parties in parliament: David Cameron who is the leader of the ruling Conservative Party and British Prime Minister, Nick Clegg who is Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of Liberal Democrats and the leader of the opposite Party, Labour, Ed Miliband, to choose their favourite books for pleasure for the auction. Each leader will choose one book and personally sign it. Other items for the auction include two Vietnamese paintings offered by a private gallery in Viet Nam and a collection of diaries written by a former MP Chris Mullin. A journalist from one of the UK's national newspapers, The Guardian, Michael White will conduct the auction.
MP Howarth said that he hoped the United States Government and the companies involved will recognise their obligations regarding compensation for all of those affected by Agent Orange. He said whether the companies responsible for providing the chemicals or the US government makes a gesture is not important; the important thing is that somebody does something about it.
In a debate at the House of Commons in April this year, Howarth also mentioned this issue. At the debate he said: "I do not raise the issue in any anti-US spirit, but as an appeal from one close ally to another to recognise that there is a debt of honour that now needs to be redeemed."
Howarth also praised the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society, and particularly its secretary, Len Aldis, who has done so much to highlight the effects of Agent Orange and to raise funds for many years on behalf of the victims.
Welcoming the special event, Aldis said: "I am hoping that the reception and auction will not only raise funds for the tragic victims, but will also enable more people to understand that help is still needed for those suffering from the effects of Agent Orange sprayed so many years ago over a ten-year period that has now tragically reached into the fourth generation."
"In my recent visit to Ha Noi in May this year, I visited Thanh Xuan Peace Village and saw young babies undergoing treatment and met again the young man named Le Van Chien who was fitted with artificial legs 11 years ago and is now 20 years-old studying at a local college. He is fine example of what fundraising can do. I wish the evening all success," Aldis added. — VNS
* Vietnam News Agency's London Bureau Chief
** The APPG includes 50 members. Its purpose is to conduct a dialogue with the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, in particular with the Vietnamese National Assembly and the Ambassador and the Embassy in London, and to take an interest in the Vietnamese community in the UK.