Burmese Embargo on Gemstones

Here at The Natural Sapphire Company we support only ethically mined sapphires.  We have almost no Burmese sapphires in our inventory.  The Burmese military government is one of the worst in the world.  We will continue to promote the natural and ethical beauty of natural untreated sapphires from Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Tanzania and other peaceful countries.

Below is a summary from a news release:

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Senate passed a bill late Tuesday to place a total embargo on the importation of gemstones from Myanmar, including gemstones that are mined there and subsequently pass through third-party countries, according to the Associated Press.

Approved earlier by the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill is being sent to President Bush to be signed into law. If enacted, the legislation is expected to have an especially large impact on imports of “Burmese rubies,” as they are known in the trade, since 90 percent of the world’s rubies originate in Myanmar.

The bill was designed to take aim at Myanmar’s ruling military junta, which profits from state-run gemstone auctions but has received much negative attention for its documented history of human rights violations. Tensions flared up last year when Burmese monks were victims in the military’s violent crackdown against protestors. The country’s rubies were being called “blood rubies” in the press, with First Lady Laura Bush among those pushing for a complete U.S. ban of the stones.

Titled “The Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act,” the just-passed bill builds upon current sanctions, which already ban the importation of gemstones from Myanmar. The new version will close a loophole in the current act by banning Burmese gems, including rubies and jade, from reaching the United States through third-party countries, such as Thailand, where most of the gems are processed.

In the gemstone trade, there have been mixed feelings about the proposed ban because some believe that it will hurt small gemstone dealers in Burma and the gem and jewelry industry that processes the goods in Thailand, more than the government of Myanmar.

The bill also makes Myanmar’s ruling junta, other military officers and their families ineligible for visas to the United States, according to the Associated Press.

The legislation is named for the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos, a Democrat who is the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress. When he died in February at the age of 80, he was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The U.S. and other Western governments have criticized Myanmar’s junta for its refusal to restore democracy and release pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees, according to the Associated Press.

Myanmar’s military rulers also came under criticism from many in the international community for their slow response to the May 2-3 Cyclone which left at least 84,537 people dead and 53,836 missing and presumed dead.

The junta stalled in accepting international aid and even physically blocked relief workers from going to the worst-hit areas. Myanmar eventually cooperated with the United Nations in humanitarian operations, but how much it will work with the international community beyond that is yet unclear.