The Hague, 14 February – This week, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) welcomes a delegation from Vietnam led by Professor Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, Vice President of Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) at its Headquarter in The Hague to take part in a series of events focused on modern forensic genetics and missing person identification in Vietnam. The delegation includes genetic researchers and experts in the identification of war remains from relevant departments and ministries in Vietnam.
“The sheer number of war remains to be identified – numbering hundreds of thousands – and the low quality of samples due to degradation over time and unfavorable burial environments requires state of the art DNA technology,” shared Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, describing the challenges faced by Vietnam on this issue. He underlined his appreciation of Senator Patrick Leahy and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Tim Rieser and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for funding, and ICMP for implementing, a project to help develop and optimize advanced DNA analysis workflows suited to Vietnam’s challenges. “This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the US – Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership. This project shows the remarkable cooperation progress the two sides have made.”
“The various components of the Implementation Plan and the series of events hosted in The Hague will help to establish a solid foundation for the use of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to identify war remains on a large scale,” explained ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger. “Through this initiative, ICMP hopes to make a valuable contribution to the efforts being undertaken by relevant agencies in Vietnam to account for unidentified war remains.” ICMP signed an implementation plan with VAST in October 2022 to enhance Vietnam’s capabilities to identify war remains. This also partly implements the Memorandum of Intent (MoI) signed between the USAID and the Vietnam Office for Missing Persons (VNOSMP, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in July 2020.
“ICMP has worked with USAID and its partners in the Government of Vietnam to identify specific areas where ICMP can provide targeted and effective assistance,” said ICMP Commissioner Thao Griffiths. “The challenge is to launch and sustain a systematic process that will make it possible to identify a very large number of persons who have been missing for half a century or more.”
This week’s events are attended by Tim Rieser, a senior foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, who himself is a strong advocate for rebuilding the US – Vietnam relationship and addressing war legacies.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating and identifying missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.