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Myanmar sanctions missing a few gems

Amy Scott Oct 1, 2007


Scott Jagow: What’s happening in Myanmar right now is quite a story. Thousands of people took the streets calling for democracy. But the country’s military snuffed out the demonstrations.

Today, a U.N. envoy pleaded with Myanmar’s leaders to accept the people’s demands for democracy. Last week, the U.S. imposed new economic sanctions, but some believe they’re not strong enough. Amy Scott has more.

Amy Scott: The new restrictions come on top of existing sanctions that critics say are full of loopholes. Chevron’s stake in a major natural gas project is exempt. And then there’s the country’s gem trade.

Marco Simons is U.S. legal director for Earth Rights International. He says Myanmar — also known as Burma — is a major producer of the world’s rubies. If those gems are mined in Burma but cut in Thailand, they’re not considered Burmese products.

Marco Simons: So virtually every major U.S. jewelry company is probably selling Burmese rubies, some of which benefit the Burmese government directly through government auctions of gems.

Tiffany is one exception. The company pledged a few years ago not to sell gems mined in Burma.

Simons says if the U.S. government really wanted to hurt the Myanmar regime, it would stop buying products from any company with ties to the country. He says those tactics worked in the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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