Myanmar’s multimillion-dollar gemstone industry has fallen into the hands of the state military which seized power in a coup on February 1. Human rights groups are now concerned that the luxury gemstone trade is funding the military’s bloody crackdown.
All gemstone mining in Myanmar is technically illegal as all licenses issued by Myanmar’s toppled civilian government expired in 2020, a year before the coup, according to a report by the NGO Global Witness. The NGO says Myanmar is one of the world’s largest suppliers for rubies and many the source of the world’s most valuable stones.
Here are some of their key findings…
- Despite all gemstone mining being officially illegal in Myanmar following the expiration of the last mining license in 2020, gemstone mining has boomed since the February coup.
- Tens of thousands of informal miners have filled the void left by the end of official mining, and are being exploited by the military as well as non-state armed groups.
- Based on a conservative estimate, Myanmar’s ruby industry at full production before licences expired was worth an average of $346 million to $415 million a year.
Rubies mined in Myanmar end up in gemstone markets in Bangkok, Hong Kong, New York, and London. Global Witness says that gemstone companies around the world must promptly assess their supply chains to ensure they are not fueling conflict, corruption, or state persecution in Myanmar, adding that gemstone mining is still illegal inland.
SOURCE: Global Witness