JA Tells Members Not to Accept Goods from Myanmar

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RAPAPORT… Jewelers of America (JA) has appealed to Congress to amend the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003 by specifically including all gemstones mined in Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma.) Currently the Act bans the “importation of any article that is a product of Burma.”

The Union of Burma was changed to the Union of Myanmar in June 1989 and recognized as Myanmar by the United Nations, but not by the government of the United States. Since August 18, 2007, civil unrest and protests against the current leaders in Myanmar have resulted in at least a dozen deaths due to a military crack down on protesters. Myanmar has an estimated 50 million residents and shares borders with India, China, Thailand, and one small stretch of Laos.

“In light of the continuing lack of democratic freedoms in Burma, as evidenced by recent events in the country, JA has asked Congress to amend the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003…so that it includes gemstones mined in that country. JA also has asked that this amendment remain effective until such time as Burma agrees to the democratic reforms articulated in a proposed January 2007 resolution put before the United Nations Security Council,” the group told its 11,000 members through a mailing.

The Security Council resolution, which did not pass, called for national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar, the release of all political prisoners, an end to human-rights abuses in the country, and the inclusion of opposition and ethnic minorities in dialogue leading to a genuine democratic transition.

While nine member states on the Security Council voted for passing the resolution on January 12, Russia and China vetoed the measure although the two nations acknowledged Myanmar had serious problems.

“Jewelers of America has also taken immediate steps to inform its members about the situation in Burma and to advise them to source their gemstones in a manner that respects human rights,” said JA president and CEO Matthew A. Runci.

“JA members believe it is their responsibility to support and respect the protection of international human rights within their sphere of influence and to make sure the sourcing of gemstones is not complicit in human rights abuses, in line with the commitments they assume as members of Jewelers of America. These commitments include adherence to the principles of U.N. Global Compact, which JA has agreed to support,” Runci said.

By default, JA members agree to the association’s Statement of Principles, which articulates their support of the U.N. Global Compact: www.jewelers.org/aboutJA/responsibility.html

Some of the steps JA has asked its members to take include contacting their suppliers to ascertain whether any of the gems they supply are from Myanmar / Burma, and seek (on all future orders) written assurances from their suppliers that they will not knowingly supply any gems mined in Myanmar / Burma, until the process of democratic reform has started in that country.

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