Property disputes are Vietnam’s biggest political problem

FOR years residents of Dong Tam, a village on the edge of Vietnam’s capital, have fought for the right to continue tending farms on land earmarked for military development. Their patience evaporated in April, when authorities arrested a group of elders whom they had chosen to press their case with the government. The villagers overpowered dozens of policemen who had been sent to secure the settlement, holding them captive in a municipal hall (pictured above). Supporters blocked nearby lanes with rubble, and at least one hothead threatened to set the hall on fire.

The week-long siege that followed marked a new escalation in Vietnam’s endless battles over land—the primary cause of complaints in the country and one of the ruling Communist Party’s biggest headaches. Vietnamese followed the drama on social media and, eventually, in the state press. But just as startling was the government’s capitulation, negotiated in person by Hanoi’s mayor. Authorities secured the hostages’...Continue reading

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