The U.S. Senate has voted to extend sanctions against Burma for another three years, citing the government's poor human rights record.
The Senate, by voice vote, approved the bill extending the 2003 Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which bans imports from Burma.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, says the sanctions are supported by the people of Burma, where the military refuses to hand over power to a government elected in 1990, and where democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.
"Passage of this bill would mean continued sanctions against the illegitimate, dictatorial regime that currently holds Burma literally in its grip."
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, says the situation in Burma continues to worsen. He says the military junta controls the population through a campaign of violence and terror, murdering political opponents, using child soldiers and forced labor, and employing rape as a weapon of war.
McCain criticized the international community for not following the U.S. lead in taking a hard line against the Burmese regime:
"Nine years after Burma joined ASEAN, Southeast Asian nations remain too passive in the face of Burma's outrages. The European Union has recently announced it will waive a travel ban on Burma's top leaders so that Burma's foreign minister can attend the Asia-Europe meetings in Finland this September. It is hard to see what new actions the Burmese junta must commit in order to induce the world to treat the junta like the pariah it wishes to be."
Burma is expected to be on the agenda at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to attend.
The House of Representatives approved the Burma sanctions bill earlier this month. President Bush is expected to sign the measure.