US Senate passes Myanmar sanctions bill to ban import of gems

The US Senate passed legislation Wednesday that will tighten sanctions against the ruling junta in Myanmar by banning the importation of that country's rubies and high-quality jade. The bill aims to bring more pressure against the junta to restore Democratic civilian government in Myanmar, also called Burma. US officials say Myanmar has been evading earlier gem-targeting sanctions by laundering the stones in third countries before they are shipped to the United States. Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, a sponsor of the bipartisan legislation and a long-shot candidate for president, said in a statement: "The message to the people of Burma today is clear: the United States stands with you as you seek a peaceful, negotiated transition to democratic civilian rule." The House of Representatives already passed its version of the bill but must act again on the Senate-passed version to approve minor differences.