A number of studies in developing countries show that in the absence of strict environmental regulation and strong enforcement, communities have emerged as a new informal regulators. In Viet Nam local communities in some cases are successful in forcing industrial polluters to reduce pollution or to change production processes into more environmentally sound directions. New subpolitical arrangements are formed, involving innovative relations between communities, industrial polluters and state authorities. However, people living in the neighbourhood of industrial firms are often dependent on firms and local authorities in terms of economic and social benefits, potentially inhibiting these processes of informal regulation by communities. This paper analyses if and to what extent economic and social dependencies of communities from industrial firms in their vicinity play a role in hampering community involvement in environmental regulation.