January 13, 2008
Sales of rubies and jade help bankroll Burma’s repressive military. Consumers should insist that their jewelry is not made with Burmese gems.
Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch

(New York) - Consumers and merchants should not buy jade, rubies, and other gems from Burma until the military government ends its repression, which is partly funded by gem sales, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called for a boycott in advance of a gem auction scheduled from January 15 to 19 in Rangoon.

The upcoming gem auction is organized by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Ltd., a military conglomerate. Shares in the holding company are held by the Ministry of Defense and members of the armed forces. Its board of directors is comprised of senior military officers.

“Sales of rubies and jade help bankroll Burma’s repressive military,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Consumers should insist that their jewelry is not made with Burmese gems.”

The Burmese military government, notorious for decades of abuse, made international headlines in August and September when it used deadly force in response to peaceful protests by monks, pro-democracy activists, and ordinary civilians. Hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained.

“Burma’s generals are counting on gem sales to help pay for their abusive rule,” said Ganesan. “They deserve to be disappointed.”

Human Rights Watch advised consumers to ask retailers about the origin of the jewelry they sell, and to decline to purchase from retailers who are not able to offer informed answers or who are unwilling to identify the country of origin of the jewels in writing, such as on the sales receipt.

Retailers should require their suppliers to identify the country of origin on any invoices and to guarantee that gemstones were not mined in Burma, Human Rights Watch said. Retailers should also seek to verify the accuracy of their suppliers’ claims.

Click here for more information on Burma's gem trade and human rights abuses.