Sun, Oct 19, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar makes a bundle from its latest gem auction

AP , YANGON, MYANMAR

Myanmar has earned more than US$175 million from its latest government-sponsored sale of gems, despite a US ban on their importation, an official said.

Most of the revenue from the 13-day auction was earned from the sales of jade, which fetched more than US$172 million. Gemstones and pearls were the other items offered.

An organizer of the gems emporium who spoke on condition of anonymity said on Friday that 2,648 gem merchants participated from nearly a dozen countries, including China, Thailand, Japan and Canada.

In July, US President George W. Bush signed legislation banning the import of gems from Myanmar, which was already the voluntary policy of retailers such as Tiffany’s and Bulgari.

It is one of several economic sanctions that Washington has applied to Myanmar’s military government because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand power to a democratically elected government.

US officials said at that time that Myanmar had been evading earlier gem sanctions by laundering stones in other countries before being shipped to the US.

Myanmar gem sellers say the sanctions have little impact on their business because they rely on Chinese and Thai gem merchants, who are the major buyers.

The largest contingent at this latest sale was the more than 2,200 gem merchants who came from China, the main market for Myanmar jade. The second-largest contingent of more than 70 gem merchants were Thais, who usually dominate gem and jewelry bidding.

Organized by the Mines Ministry, the events are major revenue earners for Myanmar — one of the biggest jade and gem-producing countries in the world.

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