Thu 28 Oct 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Merchants from the United States and Britain will join hundreds of their colleagues from around the world here Sunday as Myanmar’s sanctions-hit regime puts millions of dollars worth of gems on sale.
More than 500 merchants from nine nations are expected to attend the sale as the military junta tries to cut the smuggling of precious stones from their country and bring the trade firmly under government control.
At least 2,000 lots of jade, gems and pearls will be sold by tender and competitive bidding during the four-day event, said U Myint Thein, deputy mines minister.
The largest number of dealers are from Hong Kong and mainland China, he said.
More local producers are opting to sell their gems through the official emporia which are now held three times annually, said Khin Win, managing director of the state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise which sponsors the events.
“They are finding out that it is more expedient for them to channel their products through us … They not only earn more foreign currency but can also use their earnings to import machinery and other essentials,” he told AFP.
Despite the official sales, most stones are smuggled out of the country, depriving the poverty-hit and politically isolated country of much-needed foreign revenues.
The junta has been hit by international sanctions, particularly by the United States and the European Union, over the ongoing detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political party won elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to rule. Myanmar’s gem market has so far been unable to compete with those of Thailand and Hong Kong, where the bulk of the smuggled wares end up.