Contested Regimes, Aid Flows, and Refugee Flows: The Case of Burma

Susan Banki


There is a substantial literature that critiques the role that international aid plays in lending support to oppressive and contested regimes. But few investigators have asked the inverse question: what happens when aid is withdrawn? Following government oppression in 1988, international aid to Burma decreased significantly, providing a case study enabling this question to be addressed. Using Burma as an example, this article asks: if the presence of aid has been shown to support oppressive and contested regimes, what is the impact when aid is withdrawn? The article reviews critiques of development and humanitarian aid and identifies three specific regime-reinforcing phenomena. It demonstrates that these have not diminished following the overall decrease of aid to Burma. The paper then addresses the related relationship between aid flows and refugee flows, and concludes with implications of the research.

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