January 16, 2008

Are Boycotts Cutting into Myanmar's Gem Trade?

[Updated Jan. 17, 2008]

The Myanmar junta’s repression of democracy protests last summer have calmed the streets, but its harsh tactics may have also robbed the state’s gem trade of its luster.

Inter Press Service reports that Myanmar’s gem auctions brought in $300 million in 2006, the state’s third most profitable export after fossil fuels and timber.

But according to activists, a November 2007 gem auction earned $150 million, far short of its $230 million “low end sales projection.”

Now, Myanmar is staging another auction this week, prompting renewed calls for boycotts.

Human rights campaigners say that Maynamar is increasing the number of gem auctions to offset the effects of economic sanctions.

–Josh Wilson/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Myanmar’s gem trade loses its shine”
Inter Press Service, January 16, 2008

3 thoughts on “Are Boycotts Cutting into Myanmar's Gem Trade?

  1. This is completely misleading. For starters, the Myanma Gems Enterprise’s financial year runs to March 31 and it is highly unlikely anyone outside news agency has reliable figures for the 2007 calendar year. Secondly, the article quoted refers to figures from Human Rights Watch for a November auction – only one of several in 2007.

    I think it is far to early to say that gem earnings have taken a hit. Let’s wait and see if the customs department releases MGE earnings for 2007-08 (the MGE is almost certain not to release it’s own earnings and is under no obligation to do so). To report that the junta is getting less from gems is, I believe, encouraging readers to put faith in what at this stage is completely unsubstantiated.

  2. Toby,

    I looked more closely at the article and the source and you are correct, the phrasing we had did not effectively attribute the assertions about declining earnings to activists.

    We did previously and continue to note that this is a claim by “human rights campaigners,” but I have modified the copy above to be more specific about that.

    Here is the uncorrected original version that Toby flagged:

    “Inter Press Service reports that Myanmar’s gem auctions brought in $300 million in 2006, the state’s third most profitable export after fossil fuels and timber.

    “But in 2007, in the grips of numerous economic sanctions, bans and boycotts, gem earnings dropped to $150 million.

    “Now, Myanmar is staging another auction this week, prompting renewed calls for boycotts.

    “Human rights campaigners say that the number of gem auctions is on the rise, as Maynamar’s gem trading companies, which are largely owned by officers in the ruling military junta, struggle to meet earnings expectations.”

    We also changed the headline to its current state from “Boycotts Cut into Myanmar Gem Trade.”

    You can read the corrected version above.

    Thank you for helping watchdog this news brief.

    Josh Wilson
    Editor

  3. I can’t understand how the ‘success’ of sanctions and boycotts is considered good news. True, Myanmar is under dictatorship, but economic sanctions will only aggravate the woe of the poor Myanmarese who are already suffering from the grips of undemocratic administration. I believe that news about Myanmar is already overhyped, over-reported in the Western media because of the strategic importance of this tiny nation. Compared to what is happening in the rest of the world, say in Somalia where thousands of lives are at stake, the events in Myanmar are definitely minor ones. What is surprising that even such media outlets like you who consider themselves guardians of forgotten news also follow suit.