US re­news pro­hi­bi­tions on im­port­ing jade, ru­bies

The Myanmar Times - - News - NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­

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.

Photo: Kaung Htet

A man searches for jade in Hpakant town­ship, Kachin State.

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