Aid to Burma hindered by Suu Kyi trial

June 11, 2009 (DVB), Donor countries providing post-cyclone aid to Burma have voiced skepticism about continuing aid to a country whose opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, stands trial on spurious charges.

Following cyclone Nargis last year, the United States stepped up aid to Burma from $3 million a year to $US75 million. Similarly, Britain, who provided $US14.5 million a year, Japan and the European Commission increased aid.

The donors have however expressed concern about the impact of the trial on their willingness to continue aid, and have told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, which includes Burma, to expect delays in its delivery.

"(The trial) has not helped the enthusiasm of their constituencies to engage more actively and more fully," ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan told Reuters reporters yesterday after a meeting with donors in Bangkok.

The US, UK and EU, who all hold targeted sanctions against the regime, earlier this spoke of the possibility of easing the blockade following acknowledgment that sanctions had proven ineffective.

Any move towards this was derailed in May following the announcement that Suu Kyi would stand trial for alleged breaching of conditions of her house arrest.

International aid to Burma has long been a controversial topic, with critics arguing that any flow of money into the country props up the military government.

Last year following the cyclone, which left 140,000 people dead, the regime came under severe international criticism for their lax response to the disaster, with aid groups initially denied access to the delta region where the cyclone struck.

Restriction in the movement of aid by the government, and the current trial of Suu Kyi, which many see as a pretext to keep her in detention beyond next year's election, have only intensified the debate as whether any aid should go to Burma.

Speaking to Reuters, however, Andrew Kirkwood, country director for Save The Children UK, argued that aid should continue despite the government's behaviour.

"It would be really silly to penalise the people of this country for actions taken by the current military regime," he said.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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