Gem sales continue despite calls for boycott

Nov 21, 2007 (DVB), A Burmese gem auction at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Mayangon township, Rangoon, has attracted 3596 local and international merchants so far, according to state media reports.

The government-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar said yesterday that 1705 lots of jade had been sold since 17 November.

Sales are due to continue until 26 November, with more buyers expected to attend the event.

International rights group Human Rights Watch has called for a complete international ban on Burmese gems, claiming that the sale of rubies and jade keep the regime in power and finance human rights abuses.

In a statement released on 12 November, the group said that gem auctions are an increasingly important source of revenue for the junta, and have been held ever more frequently in recent years.

Arvind Ganesan, director of HRW's Business and Human Rights Program, said in the statement that buyers were supporting the regime at the expense of the people of Burma.

"It is simply unconscionable for traders to help Burma's generals sell off the country's natural resources for their own benefit while average people are victimized and harassed," he said.

"Trading in Burmese gems bolsters the country's military rulers at a time when they are committing serious human rights abuses, driving their people into further poverty, and rejecting calls for political reconciliation."

A number of countries and retailers have imposed sanctions on the import or use of Burmese gems, but many merchants, particularly from Thailand and China, continue to support the trade.

"The governments and companies that have stopped buying Burmese gems deserve credit for not supporting human rights abusers. The rest have the blood of Burmese on their hands," said Ganesan.

Reporting by DVB

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