No one could possibly miss the ongoing news reports about Burma's cruel military regime's crackdown on protests led this time by the country's revered Buddhist monks. Nor the resulting global rallies calling for sanctions against the government, if you could call it one.

Burma has been ruled by the military since1962. The current junta brutally put down a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 and refused to recognise the election win of Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi's party in 1990. The economy is in shambles, the people are struggling. The junta has been particularly harsh against the non-Burmese hill tribes like the Padaung (Karen subgroup) who want greater autonomy, forcing them to flee into neighbouring Thailand.

What has this got to do with jewelry? Plenty, for 90% of the world's supply of rubies come from Burma. The famed Mogok valley yields fabulous rubies - deep red pigeon's blood rubies - prized for centuries. Other fine gemstones like sapphires and imperial jade also come from Burma. The state controls the mines and sells the gemstones to fund their regime. Like the better known blood diamonds, these gemstones destined to grace many a pretty ring, cost many lives along the way for the conditions at the mines are truly horrendous. Young miners are deliberately and forcibly hooked on heroin to make them work harder. Many die because they contract HIV from sharing needles. Debbie Stothard of Alternative Asean Network on Burma said " These rubies are red with the blood of young people".

The only way to stop a unjust regime that won't listen is to choke their income source. People around the world are pressing their governments to support or beef up sanctions. There are already moves to stop buying Burmese gemstones. Three Canadian companies, Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., Jet Gold and Leeward Capital have ceased dealing with the regime, more will likely follow. In the US, the Illinois jeweller, Brian Leber, leader of The Jewellers' Burma Relief Project stopped dealing in these gemstones years ago. He shows his customers other alternatives and sleeps better at night.

Note : Myanmar is a name imposed by the military regime whose hold on power is not by the people's will. The people prefer to be called Burmese and their country Burma. Activist organisations also do not use Myanmar.

Picture source : Wikipedia : Ruby


Canadian Press, October 6, 2007 : Canadians rally across Canada in support of Myanmar dissidents
US Reuters, October 4, 2007 : Move over, blood diamonds by Carmel Cimmin
The Times (South Africa), Oct 7, 2007 : Calling Burma Myanmar is insulting to the Burmese
The Beading Gem's Journal

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