Burmese’s struggle

Published by Associate Press, by MICK ELMORE, November 16, 2007

Myanmar Rubies Have Dealers Seeing Red.

2 excerpts: BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The rich red hue of Myanmar’s prized rubies is a reminder to many gem dealers of the military government’s bloody crackdown on democracy advocates, and talk of a boycott is increasing.

“There is a growing awareness that it is a fascist regime,” said Brian Leber, a third generation American gem dealer.

“Considering what this regime has done to its own people, we’re troubled to see that a precious stone is offering such a great source of cash for them,” he said in a telephone interview from the Chicago suburb of Western Springs, Ill.

“Trade in these stones supports human rights abuses,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week. “The sale of these gems gives Burma’s military rulers quick cash to stay in power.” Myanmar is also called Burma.

But a successful boycott of what activists call “blood rubies” will prove difficult. More than 1,500 people from more than 20 countries registered for a gems auction that opened Wednesday, despite the boycott calls. While some rubies are exported legally, many also are smuggled out of Myanmar …

… American companies stopped buying rubies in 2003, when the United States banned imports of all Myanmar products under a law enacted in reaction to the ruling generals’ human rights abuses.


The following year the U.S. Customs Department created a loophole, exempting gems cut or polished in other countries from the ban. More than 90 percent of Myanmar’s gems are exported in rough form.

Most colored stones from Myanmar are cut and polished in Chanthaburi, Thailand, a global gem center. Often those that arrive cut and polished are done over because the skill level in Myanmar is inferior to Thai workmanship, dealers in the southeast Thai town say.

But even during the total ban on Myanmar gems, many passed under the radar by being sold as coming from Vietnam or Sri Lanka. When the loophole was introduced they started being Myanmar rubies again.

Despite such problems, Leber, the Illinois dealer, disagrees with the boycott opponents. “It’s not a question if it’s going to be effective. It just feels wrong to sell rubies from Burma.”
(full text).

Links:

photo gallery;

Canada imposing tough sanctions on Myanmar, November 15, 2007;

Muslims and their history in Myanmar, by R. Upadhyay, Nov. 17, 2007;

Myanmar Junta Thinks Country Has Democracy, Ong Says (Update1), by En-Lai Yeoh, Nov. 15, 2007;

Myanmar ferry capsizes, 23 missing – paper, Nov 14, 2007;

ILO asks Myanmar to declare forced labour banned, by Reuter, Nov 14, 2007;

The World from Berlin: Time for the World to Help Burma … September 25, 2007;

blog discussing this story;

SPIEGEL ONLINE – 27.09.2006, by Daniel Pepper, Security Council Addresses Burma: The Never-Ending Myanmar Nightmare;

BAREFOOT AGAINST THE JUNTA, Buddhist Monks Lead Myanmar Protests, by Jürgen Kremb, 24. Sept. 2007;

BURMESE DARFUR‘, The Silent Genocide of Myanmar, by Jürgen Kremb in Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand, Sept. 6, 2007.

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