Saturday, October 27, 2007

FT In Depth: Burma's Junta Exports Lose Sparkle

Source: Financial Times

For centuries, Burma’s gem mines have supplied some of the world’s best rubies, jade and other gemstones coveted by couture jewellers and their wealthy customers. In recent years, these stones have also been a key source of foreign exchange for a cash-starved junta, which last year earned about $300m (€209m, £146m) from state gem auctions.

But after watching television images of Burmese soldiers attacking civilians and monks, executives at Cartier, the French luxury brand, decided it was time to take a stand. Within days, they were telling their cut-stone suppliers that they would not buy any more gems mined in Burma and would conduct random checks to ensure that the stones they did buy were not coming from there.

“While it was clear before that Burma was not a democratic regime, what we were witnessing was organised state violence. This was, in a way, an emotional response for us,” says Pamela Caillens, Cartier’s corporate responsibility director.

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