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Myanmar Gems Industry Targeted in Push for Sanctions | World News

By ELAINE KURTENBACH, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) — Human rights activists are lobbying main jewelers to cease shopping for gems sourced in Myanmar as a method to exert stress on Myanmar’s army leaders by limiting earnings from the nation’s profitable mining trade.

A report by the group Global Witness launched Wednesday outlines how the military is concerned in gemstone mining regardless of a moratorium on new licenses put in place earlier than the army seized energy on Feb. 1, ousting the federal government of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

It comes as laws is pending in the U.S. Congress, the Burma Act of 2021, which might prohibit all U.S. imports of Myanmar gem stones.

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“There is no such thing as an ethically sourced Burmese ruby,” Clare Hammond, senior Myanmar campaigner at Global Witness, mentioned in an announcement. “These gemstones are sold as symbols of human connection and affection, yet the supply chain is steeped in corruption and horrific human rights abuses.”

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Last week, luxurious jeweler Harry Winston introduced it will now not purchase gem stones with Burmese origins no matter after they had been imported.

Indian jewellery firm Vaibhav Global mentioned in late November it had eliminated all listings of merchandise together with Myanmar gems whereas it investigates their sourcing. Vaibhav’s merchandise are offered extensively on-line, together with on Amazon, Overstock and Walmart’s websites.

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Tiffany & Co. by no means resumed utilizing Burmese gems after U.S. sanctions in opposition to Myanmar had been lifted in 2016 when the nation was in the midst of political and financial reforms following many years of army rule. Cartier, Signet Jewelers – the proprietor of the Zales, Kay Jewelers and Jared chains – and Boodles even have declared they don’t seem to be sourcing gem stones from Myanmar.

But prized Burmese “pigeon blood” rubies and different stunning gem stones are simply out there on many e-commerce websites, as are pricey objects of jewellery adorned with gems from strife-torn Mogok and different mining areas.

Global Witness and different teams are urging all retailers of gems and jewellery to observe swimsuit in halting purchases and gross sales of such merchandise, describing the jade and gemstone sector as one of many army’s most vital sources of funding, particularly following the takeover 10 months in the past that has ignited widespread political turmoil.

Smuggling and illicit gross sales make it arduous to know precisely how massive the trade is, however revenues from gross sales of jade, pearls and gem stones are estimated to run into the billions of {dollars}.

Myanmar’s “pure useful resource wealth is proving to be a lifeline for the generals,” the report says. “For many years the army has consolidated its rule by looting the nation’s helpful pure assets.”

Confronted with widespread public opposition to their seizure of energy, the army has engaged in mass torture, launched assaults on medics and forcibly disappeared 1000’s of individuals. Since February, troopers and police have killed no less than 1,300 individuals and arrested greater than 10,800, in accordance with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which displays deaths and arrests.

Two state-run Myanmar conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Corp. and Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd., dominate the jade and gems commerce via varied subsidiaries. Other gem merchants are thought be associates of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the army takeover.

The U.S. and different governments have imposed sanctions on some military-affiliated firms, military leaders and their households. One of the businesses topic to sanctions is Myanma Gems Enterprise, which is in cost of licenses and permits for mining gems and jade and collects revenues from their sale.

The Global Witness report, which analyzed official knowledge, estimates that the gemstone trade alone generated revenues of $346 million to $415 million when it was in full operation, although a lot of the gems commerce is performed via illicit channels.

Suu Kyi’s authorities suspended renewing or granting new licenses in 2016 and the final current license expired in 2020. So mining exercise now’s unauthorized, or no less than not primarily based on publicly disclosed licensing.

Much of the mining is in Mogok township, the place most of Myanmar’s rubies, sapphires and different gems are unearthed. With massive operators not in enterprise, mining is generally achieved by hand underneath perilous circumstances, the report mentioned.

Many gem stones are processed in Thailand and by the point they’re imported their origin has grow to be unclear, it mentioned.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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