U.S-Vietnam Cooperation on Capacity to Assess War Remains

On July 24, 2023, in Hanoi, Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) – Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) organized the seminar: "New Technology in the Examination of Remains of the War in Vietnam - First Report on Program Progress cooperation to improve the capacity to examine remains in war". The event is within the framework of the Implementation Plan "Improving the capacity to examine remains in war, implementation period 2022 – 2024" in cooperation between VAST and ICMP.

Ovierview of the seminar 

Attending the workshop were Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, Vice President of VAST; Ms. Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Executive Director; Ms. Ritu Tariyal, Director of the Division of Healing and Inclusive Development (RIDO), USAID in Vietnam; Mr. Le Cong Tien, Director of Vietnam Agency for Search for Missing Persons (VNOSMP) - MIA - Ministry of National Defence; Ms. Nguyen Kim Oanh, Deputy Head of Martyrs' Information and Records Department, Department of Meritorious People - Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs; Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phi Quyet Tien, Deputy Director of the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT); Dr. Hoang Ha, Director of the DNA Testing Center (CDI) under IBT; representatives from DNA testing agencies under the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Defence; and scientists from ICMP and IBT.

In opening remarks, Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, Vice President of VAST, emphasized: "DNA testing is a mandatory step in the identification process. The results of DNA testing of martyrs' remain successfully carried out at VAST in the early stages since the 2000s are the scientific basis for the Government to decide to make DNA testing technology a scientific and reliable method for identifying the remains of unknown martyrs. The process of DNA testing of remains is currently facing many great challenges such as highly decomposed remains due to the long end of the war, many cases lack additional corroborating information, so there is a need for a new reliable and highly effective DNA testing technology process to replace the current technological process in use. Our project to improve our capacity to examine remains from this war has special significance, helping Vietnam both close the past and look to the future."

Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha speaks at the seminar 

According to Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, from the beginning of 2023 until now, ICMP in collaboration with VAST has made efforts to develop and optimize new DNA analysis technologies, including nuclear DNA extraction technology and next-generation gene sequencing (NGS) technology, detection and analysis of SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers to address Vietnam's challenge to samples the remains which are highly decomposed. Today's event is a testament to "the research efforts of scientists from VAST and ICMP, the positive results in their laboratories on the selection and completion of the DNA extraction process conducted on Vietnamese remains samples carried out at ICMP facilities, Haag City, Netherlands since February."

Representatives of ICMP, USAID and VNOSMP spoke about their commitments to promote cooperation among units in improving their capacity to assess the remains of war martyrs; Ms. Kathryne Bomberger, ICMP Director General, presented the strategic cooperation process between ICMP and IBT/VAST and plans for the next phase; USAID Ms. Ritu Tariyal, Director of the Division of Healing and Inclusive Development (RIDO) emphasized: "This first scientific report demonstrates the strength of international partnerships with VAST, ICMP, USAID, and VNOSMP, working together to address complex challenges and provide sustainable solutions. Together, we learn, leverage our expertise, knowledge and resources to make a real difference to unravel the fate of the 300,000 remains that remain unidentified." USAID and VNOSMP have also made commitments to support the implementation of the project.


Representatives of ICMP, USAID and VNOSMP speaks at the seminar

Implementing the Memorandum of Intent (MOI) to cooperate in supporting Vietnam's capacity to examine remains during the war between VNOSMP and USAID, the DNA Testing Center (CDI) of IBT-VAST is the main technical unit tasked with coordinating ICMP as USAID's partner in implementing cooperation under the MOI framework. Since the signing of the Implementation Plan on Cooperation to Improve the Capacity to Identify Remains in War on October 31, 2022, CDI- IBT - VAST has proactively participated in cooperative activities with ICMP, with the goal of optimizing DNA extraction technology from remains,  develop analytical techniques, apply new generation sequencing technology (NGS) in identifying missing people in war, in order to improve the scale of examination and match the conditions of DNA testing units in Vietnam in the current period.

"With a team of highly qualified staff, cleanroom system and invested equipment and support from departments, CDI – IBT – VAST is identified as the focal point in Vietnam capable of receiving, testing and developing technology received from the project, at the same time, it is the focal point for technology transfer with inspection agencies in Vietnam," Mr. Hoang Ha, Director of CDI shared.

On this occasion, on behalf of VAST, Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha thanked relevant organizations and units for their interest and active participation in the task of DNA testing of missing persons in the war.

Taking souvenir photograph 

Earlier, on July 21, 2023, the US delegation led by Ms. Kathryne Bomberger, Executive Director of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), visited and worked at VAST. The delegation towards VAST has, Prof. Dr. Chu Hoang Ha, Vice President of VAST, PhD. Nguyen Hoang Duong, Deputy Head of International Cooperation Department; Assoc. Dr. Phi Quyet Tien, Deputy Director of the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT); and Dr. Hoang Ha, Director of the Center for DNA Testing (CDI) under IBT. Kathryne Bomberger's visit is part of a series of ICMP activities in Vietnam, including the Progress Report of the "Implementation Plan to Improve the Capacity to Examine Remains in War" signed between VAST and ICMP in October 2022. As part of this series of activities, on July 25, 2023, ICMP will join us in welcoming U.S. Ambassador Marc Knapper to visit VAST on the 10th anniversary of the comprehensive partnership between the United States and Vietnam, demonstrating strong political support for cooperation between the two governments.


Translated by Mai Lan and internship group
Link to Vietnamese version

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