Faced with farmers refusing to give up land for a housing project, Communist Party officials negotiating the deal devised a solution: They went to a bank, opened accounts in the holdouts' names, and deposited what they decided was fair compensation. Then they took the land.

The farmers, angry at the sum and now forced to compete for jobs in a stuttering economy, blocked the main road connecting the capital to northern Vietnam for one day in December. In a macabre gesture, some clambered into coffins. Police who came to break up the demonstration were pelted with rocks. Several people were arrested.

Forced confiscations of land like this one are a major and growing source of public anger against Vietnam's authoritarian one-party government.