Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for allegedly raising political funds from notorious businessmen who were associated with the brutal junta regime that ruled Myanmar for decades.

The National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s political party, has admitted receiving large amounts of money from crony businessmen including Tay Za, a tycoon closely linked to former dictator Than Shwe, and Zaw Zaw, reports The Times.

Tay Za, a “notorious henchman and arms dealer” according to the US Treasury and blacklisted by the US and Europe, had donated 70 million kyat (50,000 pounds) to an education programme run by the NLD. Television company owner Kyaw Win, banned from Europe because of his close links with Burmese generals, had donated 135 million kyat (98,000) to the same fundraising event.

Suu Kyi recently claimed that cronies should be given “a chance to reform”, The Irrawaddy news website reports.

“Those who are considered cronies have supported the social activities of the NLD and others: what is wrong with that?” Suu Kyi said.

“Instead of spending their money on things that have no purpose, they have supported things that they should support. It’s a good thing”.

Suu Kyi, who was elected to parliament following political reforms under President Thein Sein’s government, was also publicly linked with Zaw Zaw, one of the country’s most notorious crony businessmen.

“It is clear that she is functioning as a politician and is trying to balance different interests,” Burma expert at Christian Solidarity Worldwide Benedict Rogers said. “However, it is also disappointing for many who viewed her as a moral leader in the mould of Gandhi or Martin Luther King”.