Myanmar opens gem auction to fill coffers

Yangon, November 14:

Myanmar opened a lucrative auction of gems today despite tightening Western sanctions and calls for a boycott from top international jewellers following the junta’s deadly crackdown on protests.

The military government hopes to sell some 5,500 lots of jade, gems and pearls, worth about 300 million dollars, during the 13-day auction, an official of state-run Myanmar Gems Enterprise said.

The country is the source of up to 90 per cent of the world’s rubies, and each auction rakes in more than 100 million dollars, making it a key source of revenue for the military regime. Myanmar used to hold gem auctions twice a year but has been holding them with increasing frequency in a bid to raise foreign currency amid tightening sanctions against the junta.