Two weeks after revelations that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the Pentagon's buying agency, had been importing goods from a Nicaraguan sweatshop, it has now been revealed that that same agency has so far imported $138,290 of clothing from Myanmar (formerly Burma).

This happened at a time when the Clinton administration moved to block financial investments in the country. Myanmar's military government has been accused of human rights violations, including permitting the practice of slave labour.

Despite the sanctions, the Pentagon agency - and other US retailers - have continued to buy goods from Myanmar, a practice that has been much criticised by Congress and human rights organisations.

Many activist groups looking for an end to the sweatshop industry have been outraged by the Pentagon's continued purchases, a move that they believe has helped support Myanmar's military regime.

Officials within the Army and Air Force Exchange Service have rejected claims that they are thwarting the government's sanctions, claiming that they are involved with the buying and selling of goods and not with investment in the country.

Shipping documents obtained from the National Labour Committee, a labour rights group involved in ensuring fairer working conditions in factories overseas, have shown that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service had over $14,624 worth of garments shipped into Los Angeles from Rangoon back in October.

The subject of sanctions has been a hot topic in congress for several years with some congressmen calling for a complete block on all economic activity with the country.

In obtaining goods from Myanmar, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service followed a strategy embraced by many American apparel companies, which, seeking to benefit from low-wage labour, have greatly increased imports from that country. Some studies have found that Myanmar's apparel workers earn just eight cents an hour, making them among the world's lowest paid manufacturing workers.

In the first nine months of this year, American apparel companies imported $308m in goods from Myanmar, more than double the level in the same period a year earlier.