Zin Linn

Burma produces more than 90 percent of the world’s rubies and fine-quality jade. Most of Burma’s jade and gem mines are managed by the junta’s mines ministry and businessmen who are cronies so close to the generals. Gemstones are a lucrative source of income for Burma’s military regime, even though Western sanctions imposed on the resource-rich country.

Burma is one of the world’s biggest producers of dear stones. It took in a record 1.08 billion Euros ($1.44 billion) at a 13-day emporium last month as per a government official on Tuesday (7 December), Reuters reported.

The emporium in the capital, Naypyitaw, engrossed some 6,700 traders, 4,000 of them from overseas, with 9,157 lots of jade, 273 lots of gems and 237 lots of pearls sold in auctions, said the official, who requested anonymity, according to Reuters.

Concurrently, the Burma’s military junta has a dreadful human rights record. The junta has incessantly made lots of horrible bad-names for its incarceration of political dissenters, use of forced-labor, conscription of child soldiers, discrimination of ethnic minorities, use of rape as weapon, protect drug lords and other abuses of law.

International pressures tighten up on Burma’s gem business increased following the SPDC’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy citizens and monks since fuel-price hike in August and September 2007. Human Rights Watch was among civil society groups that called on governments to adopt strict sanctions on Burma’s gem trade and urged traders to stop buying gems from Burma.

The United States Congress passed a bill in October 2007 to expand sanctions barring the domestic sale of rubies, jade and other gems routed through Burma’s neighbours. Experts say this has had only a limited impact on the junta because most buyers are from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The 13-day emporium in the capital, Naypyitaw is the first time in five years that the regime has indicated how much money has been generated from the jade-and-gem auction which is usually held in the biggest city, Rangoon or Yangon.

Officials said trade fairs held in March and October generated 400 million and 700 million Euros respectively. Many analysts consider the regime is promoting its natural resources, mainly natural gas energy, to attract foreign awareness and pressure second look of trade restrictions. The incomes from such natural resources are helping the strong military to procure better sophisticated arms.

People accused of political involvements are arrested without warrants and put on trials without legal representation where verdicts are predestined, given lengthy punishments, and confined far from their families. Without new trials sentences often are extended and prisoners are held for indefinite periods of time. Inside prison they are maltreated – bad room, bad food, unhygienic water and left without sufficient health care. 

The UN, International Labor Organization (ILO), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International Asian Human Rights Commission and other international organizations have reported the abuses and violations of human rights violations by the junta for decades. The UN General Assembly has passed consecutive resolutions condemning the behavior of Burmese military regime, and several individual nations have adopted measures to pressure dictators to change, but the rulers of Burma have ignored all such guiding principle.

In 2009, a report on Nargis Cyclone victims drafted by the UN and ASEAN estimates that 700 million dollars will be needed over the next three years to guarantee reconstruction work in the areas hit by Nargis. The cyclone caused the death of about 140,000 people, but it is estimated that more than 2.4 million Burmese suffered damages of various kinds, and the devastating effects of the cyclone are still being felt.

However, the military regime transfers most of the money that flowed into its coffer by selling country’s natural resources into its defense budget and never spent a dollar in order to help the Nargis victims or the Giri victims. On October 22, Cyclone Giri swept through Burma’s central and western region, killing at least 150 people and affecting more than 400,000. In Burma’s far-off Rhakine State where most of Giri’s destruction occurred, very little humanitarian assistance has reached the isolated villages where tens of thousands have been left homeless and displaced by the storm.