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Vietnam village showdown may mark watershed in land conflicts

Peaceful resolution offers hope party to hear out farmers' demands for justice

| Vietnam
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A street is blocked in Dong Tam, on the outskirts of Hanoi, during an April 20 protest over land expropriation.   © Reuters

Last month, a band of farmers forced their way into the administrative compound of Dong Tam, an ancient village on the fringes of Hanoi, to protest the expropriation of their land. To the astonishment of many observers, Vietnam's communist regime calmed the explosive situation after a protracted standoff by overruling local officials.

On the margins of Vietnam's booming cities, land prices have skyrocketed. Social justice is routinely subverted by developers who are ready to pay officials whatever it takes to clear building sites. Although past reforms abolished collective farms and allowed farmers to buy and sell land use rights, farmers have not been allowed to capture the potential gains from the conversion of agricultural land to industrial or residential use.

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