Gems traders call for mea­sures to pro­tect lo­cal mar­ket

The Myanmar Times - - News - HLAING KYAW SOE hlaingkyaw­soe@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

GEMS traders in Man­dalay have called on the gov­ern­ment to en­force a tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion on jade min­ing and crack down on the il­le­gal ex­port of the pre­cious stone.

At a protest held at the Maha Aung Myay Gems Trad­ing Cen­tre on October 29, lo­cal jade traders de­manded changes to the coun­try’s Gem­stones Law in ways that bet­ter ac­count for their needs and prop up the lo­cal mar­ket.

“We are protest­ing be­cause sim­ple gems traders are fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and we are wor­ried that this will con­tinue,” said protest leader U Than Win.

The pro­test­ers also called for the re­place­ment of sev­eral se­nior fig­ures within the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion and the state-owned Myan­mar Gems En­ter­prise.

Ac­cord­ing to U Than Win, lo­cal traders are be­ing squeezed out of the mar­ket due to a re­cent in­flux of large min­ing com­pa­nies able to ex­tract vast quan­ti­ties of jade and ex­port it di­rectly to China or other for­eign mar­kets.

The lo­cal traders al­lege that many of th­ese com­pa­nies do not pay the re­quired tax, mean­ing the coun­try de­rives lit­tle ben­e­fit from the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

“Th­ese fac­tors are de­stroy­ing the sup­ply of gems in our mar­ket,” U Than Win said.

“The reg­u­la­tions that are in­cluded in the sec­ond amend­ment to the Gem­stones Law do not serve the in­ter­ests of lo­cal traders. We are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to amend the law to bet­ter con­sider us,” he added.

Pre­vi­ous amend­ments to the Gem­stones Law al­lowed for the grant­ing of min­ing per­mits to large com­pa­nies and per­mit­ted them to legally ex­port raw jade di­rectly to for­eign mar­kets if tax is paid.

Ko Kyaw Oo, an em­ployee at Dol­lar jade trad­ing busi­ness, said he par­tic­i­pated in the protest be­cause he wants the gov­ern­ment to bet­ter sup­port the lo­cal traders.

“I want the au­thor­i­ties to work with the pub­lic to boost the [lo­cal] jade mar­ket. Nowa­days gems traders from Man­dalay can’t even af­ford buy gems at gems em­po­ri­ums,” he said. An­other pro­tester, Daw Tin Zar, said the lo­cal mar­ket had been slump­ing for years.

“It would be good if this changed be­cause of our protest,” she said.

The gov­ern­ment has taken one step to curb the lu­cra­tive jade min­ing busi­ness, cen­tred in the coun­try’s north: In July, it an­nounced that min­ing per­mits would not be re­newed once they ex­pired and no new per­mits would be is­sued un­til by-laws to the Gem­stones Law were adopted.

The nat­u­ral re­sources watch­dog Global Wit­ness last year es­ti­mated that the in­dus­try was worth as much as US$31 bil­lion in 2014 alone, though most of that value went un­taxed and of­fi­cially un­ac­counted for.

Photo: Hlaing Kyaw Soe

Gems traders protest in Man­dalay on October 29.

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