Feb 10, 2008
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Myanmar to hold new gems sale in March: state media

Feb 10, 2008

YANGON, Feb 10, 2008 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government will hold a new sale of gems, pearls and jade in March, in a bid to earn much-needed foreign currency despite calls to boycott the auctions, state media said Sunday February 10th.

Foreign buyers examine the grade and quality of gem stones at one of the auctions in Yangon - Photo : AFP

The official New Light of Myanmar said the sale would be held from March 9 to 20, just two months after the last auction.

The newspaper did not give other details on the auction, but the last sale in January drew about 280 foreign buyers despite calls from the United States and rights groups for a boycott because of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests last year.

The government did not reveal how much it earned off the January sale, but in November the junta raked in 150 million dollars from a gems emporium.

Myanmar, one of the world's poorest countries, is the source of up to 90 percent of the world's rubies, and each auction brings in more than 100 million dollars, making it a key source of revenue for the ruling military government.

Myanmar's two biggest customers, China and Thailand, have continued to attend the sales despite an international outcry over the suppression of pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September, when the United Nations estimated at least 31 people were killed.

Following the crackdown, US First Lady Laura Bush urged companies to shun the auctions, while top top jewellers Tiffany, Cartier and Bulgari said they would refuse to sell Myanmar gems.

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