Activists remain concerned that as international economic sanctions on aid, trade and investment are eased, the military and its cronies will be first to benefit from the influx of foreign funds.

The bank approved Thursday an $80 million project to provide $25,000 grants to villages in 15 townships across the country, where community councils will identify the kind of help they want, such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics or rural markets.

Last month, President Barack Obama lifted the U.S. restriction on international financial institutions like the World Bank lending to Myanmar after Congress passed legislation enabling that step. It was the latest in a series of steps by Washington to reward the country for its democratic reforms.

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