The US Senate on Tuesday passed legislation renewing a ban on all US imports from Burma.

The same bill, which received an overwhelming vote of 97 to one, was approved by the US House of Representatives last month by a vote of 423 - 2. 

The bill, which is called the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, now goes to President Bush for his signature.

The measure was first passed by Congress in 2003, and renewal required annual congressional approval for three years.

This latest renewal for another year is aimed at putting pressure on Burma to improve its human rights record, and in particular, release all political prisoners.

According to the most recent US State Department Human Rights report, the Burmese Government [in 2004] "continued to restrict severely freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and movement."

Furthermore: "Forced or compulsory labour remained a widespread and serious problem..." 

The situation is so bad that Aung San Suu Kyi, the only true elected leader of Burma, has called on all countries to impose sanctions against this regime as the most effective means to help the Burmese people win their freedom.
 
Echoing this call, American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) president and chief executive officer Kevin M Burke stated that: "US sanctions alone will not work.  Therefore, we urge President Bush to actively seek similar steps from other countries.

"We hope that we can work together with the Bush administration to press our allies in the region and around the world to impose similar sanctions against this brutal regime. Only when this regime faces a world united against it will freedom truly come to the Burmese people."

Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, noted however that the US ban on Burmese imports has forced a number of Burmese garment factories to close with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.