Washington–President Barack Obama has renewed sanctions aimed at the military junta that rules Myanmar, continuing the ongoing ban on the importation of jade and rubies into the United States.
Congress reauthorized the sanctions last week and the president signed the bill into law on Tuesday, dashing the hopes of the American Gem Trade Association, the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) and several other jewelry organizations worldwide that united earlier this summer to urge Congress to consider lifting the U.S. ban on rubies imported from Myanmar. The ban, which began in 2003, was tightened further in September 2008, as part of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008, which extended the ban to include a prohibition on stones processed in third-party nations, such as Thailand, closing a loophole in the original legislation.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the coalition of jewelry groups stated that they condemn the human rights abuses of the junta (which inspired the Congressional ban to begin with), but they do not think the JADE Act will achieve the intended economic sanctions on the government. Rather than reduce the coffers of the military government, the crackdown has hurt poor people in Myanmar, many of whom are not only artisinal miners but leaders in resisting the junta, those behind the campaign argued.
But it seems that the U.S. government has yet to be swayed to loosen sanctions on Myanmar, the source of valuable Burmese rubies and jadeite for the jewelry trade.
In addition to their concerns about the human rights abuses perpetrated by the junta, U.S. lawmakers are pushing for the unconditional release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to press reports. The detained 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is being tried on charges that she violated the terms of her house arrest by harboring an uninvited American man who swam to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.
A verdict for Kyi, who faces a possible five years in prison, is expected on Friday.
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