YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar earned more than $2.8 billion from the sale of jade, gems and pearls at its annual gems auction this month, a report said Saturday.
The weekly Voice news magazine said 16,939 lots of jade, 206 lots of gems and 255 lots of pearls were sold through competitive bidding to fetch the record-high revenue. It said 8,719 local and foreign gem merchants took part in the 48th annual event, held in the capital, Naypyitaw, according to an official from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Commerce and Industry.
The March 11-22 auction, held under the auspices of the Mines Ministry, is a major foreign exchange earner for the military-dominated government, which faces economic and political sanctions from the West because of its poor human rights record.
Myanmar is one of the world's biggest producers of jade as well as the source of up to 90 percent of its rubies, and gems from the country are specifically targeted by U.S. sanctions.
in 2008, the United States enacted legislation banning the import of gems from Myanmar, which already was the voluntary policy of retailers such as Tiffany's and Bulgari.
U.S. officials said at that time that Myanmar had evaded earlier gem-targeting sanctions by laundering stones in other countries before they were shipped to the United States.
Myanmar gem sellers say the sanctions have little impact on their business because they rely on Chinese and Thai gem merchants, who are the major buyers.