US targets Myanmar gem company, seeking to deprive funding

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) on Thursday slapped sanctions on Myanmar’s state gem company, vowing to deprive the military junta of a key moneymaker as it violently suppresses democracy protests.

The Treasury Department said it would block all assets and ban any transactions with the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which manages the mining and marketing of the country’s jade and other gemstones.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was determined alongside allies to restore democracy and promote accountability in the country formerly known as Burma.

“By imposing targetted sanctions on this entity, we are sending a clear signal to the military that the US will keep increasing pressure on the regime’s revenue streams until it ceases its violence,” Blinken said in a statement.

The announcement comes in the midst of a gem emporium called by the junta in the capital Naypyidaw, with the ousted ruling National League of Democracy warning businesses not to participate.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on Thursday that the emporium on its sixth day alone sold close to USD2.5 million worth of jade.

Myanmar sold EUR825 million in gems and jade through emporiums in 2017-2018, according to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which promotes openness on natural resource exports.

Smoke rises from a fire at Ruby Mart in Yangon with the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background amid turmoil following a military coup. PHOTO: AFP