Gems That Bankroll Burma Junta Remain on Sale in US

Congress closing loophole as a first step
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2007 7:24 PM CST
In this photo released by the Mandalay Gazette, gems traders examine jade on display at the Gem Emporium before an auction in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007. More than 1,500 people from over...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Congress is moving to close a loophole in a law that forbids the sale of rubies from Burma, but the measure comes too late for the holiday shopping season, writes Marin Cogan of the New Republic. That means US shoppers—unless they take pains to question their jewelry shop's policy—will be helping prop up the military junta that only months ago brutally cracked down on protesting monks.

Burma produces 90% of the world’s jade and ruby and gets a sizable chunk of its revenue from them. Legislation in 2003 banned imports from the country, but a loophole—gems must only pass through a third country—renders it almost useless. The House last week passed a bill outlawing all such gems, but it still must go to the Senate. The law will be a good first step, Cogan writes, but the US must follow by pressuring other nations to do the same.