Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Foreigners Flock to Burma Gems Auction Despite Calls for a Boycott

Source: International Herald Tribune

More than 1,500 people from over 20 countries have registered for a major gems auction in Myanmar opening Wednesday, despite calls from human rights groups to block the purchase of precious stones from the military ruled country.

Burma is one of the biggest jade and gem-producing countries in the world, and international auctions are a major revenue earner for the regime.

Burma has held gem emporiums since 1964. The sale that runs from Wednesday through Nov. 26 is the first since the junta's bloody September crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that sparked international outcry.

"The trade in these stones supports human rights abuses," Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "The sale of these gems gives Burma's military rulers quick cash to stay in power."

The state-run Burma Gems Enterprise said it generated sales of nearly US$300 million (€206 million) in fiscal year 2006-2007, Human Rights Watch said.

Merchants from China and Hong Kong usually constitute the largest contingent of buyers at the auctions.

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