US renews prohibitions on importing jade, rubies
THE United States is continuing its tough stance toward Myanmar’s controversial jade and ruby industries.
US Customs and Border Protection updated its rules regarding these gemstones on August 23 with strict conditions similar to past years.
“The United States maintains a ban on the import of Myanmar-origin rubies, jadeite and jewellery that contains them,” a US embassy spokesperson told The Myanmar Times. “The changes to US sanctions in May did not alter that fact.”
While other US sanctions on Myanmar have been dropped or amended as the country has liberalised, this move seems to signal an ongoing resoluteness toward the jade and ruby trade.
The jade industry in particular remains marred with accusations of severe corruption, environmental harm and human rights abuses.
A 2015 investigation by advocacy group Global Witness claimed the industry was “worth up to US$31 billion in 2014 alone – that is equivalent to nearly half the GDP for the whole of Myanmar, but hardly any of the money is reaching ordinary people or state coffers”.
“The sector is secretly controlled by networks of military elites, drug lords and crony companies associated with the darkest days of junta rule,” the report said.
In July, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation announced it would not renew mining permits for gems when they expire and will only consider issuing new permits once by-laws to the Myanmar Gemstones Law have been passed.
This followed a series of deadly landslides in the jade-mining town of Hpakant in Kachin State, and continued pressure from domestic and international actors to reign in the industry.
Ministry data shows 420 mining permits expired last month alone in Kachin and Shan states and Mandalay and Sagaing regions.
US sanctions have been the topic of contention in the Pyithu Hluttaw of late. Union Solidarity and Development Party MP U Than Soe (Thazi) tabled a proposal last week urging the government to lobby for the removal of US sanctions.
The National League for Democracy majority saw 219 MPs vote against the proposal, with 151 votes being cast in favour, as well as 16 abstentions.
A man searches for jade in Hpakant township, Kachin State.