Pres. Bush Increases Pressure on Myanmar, Rep. Lantos Targets Gems

150 150 Rapaport News

RAPAPORT… The European Union (E.U.) specifically banned trading of gemstones with Myanmar on October 15. In addition to gemstones, the E.U. halted trading of metal and timber. Three top jewelry retailers were told to stop conducting business with Myanmar including Asprey, Harrods, and Leviev, according to UPI and Agence France-Presse. Leviev has since stated to the media that the company does not deal in  gemstones from Myanmar.

E.U. regulators though acknowledged that Myanmar’s neighbors needed to be convinced of imposing similar measures to truly impact Myanmar’s current military leaders.

Following E.U. actions,  United States representative Tom Lantos (D-California) introduced a bill on October 18 to prevent leaders in Myanmar from selling gemstones (to business in the United States) through third-party countries. The bill, Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act, is co-sponsored by several Republicans and Democrats including: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida,) Chris Smith (R-New Jersey,) Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania,) Frank Wolf (R-Virginia,) Pete King (R-New York,) Carolyn Maloney (D-New York,) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut.)

Lantos urged Congress to act quickly and pass Block Burmese JADE Act, drafted in response to Myanmar’s military crack-down on protesters in September. The proposal prevents sale of rubies, jade, and other gemstones specifically under the Burmese Freedom & Democracy Act of 2003.

“Burmese rubies sold in the United States are laundered through third countries to avoid our sanctions, but nothing can wash away the moral stain of supporting this illicit market,” Lantos said in a statement.

The Block Burmese JADE Act bans importing gemstones, plus freezes assets of leaders, and stops Myanmar using financial institutions via third countries launder money. “This legislation will turn off a huge cash spigot for the thuggish Burmese regime,” he added.

Lantos said 3 percent of Myanmar’s rubies arrived in the United States with certificates of origin. He said the remaining lot arrived trhough China, Thailand, and India.

“There is a direct link between these blood-red gemstones and the bloodied robes of monks who were brutally suppressed when they took to the streets to demand democracy and human rights,” Lantos said.

During a press conference on October 19, 2007, President George W. Bush said the United States’ Treasury Department had designated 11 more leaders from Myanmar for sanctions under existing authorities. The designation adds to a previously named 14 leaders and 260 officials, and family members, to a visa-ban list.

“Second, I’ve issued a new executive order that designates an additional 12 individuals and entities for sanctions. This executive order grants the Treasury Department expanded authority to designate for sanctions individuals responsible for human rights abuses as well as public corruption, and those who provide material and financial backing to these individuals or to the government of Burma,” the president said.

President Bush instructed the Commerce Department too, to “tighten its export control regulations for Burma,” but the president did not name particular export product sets.

The White House would continue to review current policies against Myanmar the president said, and “consider additional measures if Burma’s leaders do not end the brutal repression of their own people whose only offense is the desire to live in freedom.”

Through executive order the president listed the following individuals and companies that were made part of the order:  (DOB = date of birth)

1. Tay ZA; managing director, Htoo Trading Company Limited; chairman, Air Bagan Holdings Pte. Limited (d.b.a. Air Bagan); managing director, Pavo Trading Pte. Ltd.; DOB July 18, 1967; nationality, Burma
2. Pye Phyo Tay ZA; DOB January 29, 1987; nationality, Burma
3. Thidar ZAW; DOB February 24, 1962; nationality, Burma
4. Htay MYINT; chairman, Yuzana Company Limited; DOB February 6, 1955; nationality, Burma
5. Khin SHWE; president, Zay Gabar Company; DOB January 21, 1952; nationality, Burma Entities
1. Htoo Trading Company Limited; Yangon, Burma
2. Pavo Trading Pte. Ltd.; Singapore
3. Air Bagan Holdings Pte Ltd. (d.b.a. Air Bagan); Singapore
4. Air Bagan Limited (d.b.a. Air Bagan); Burma
5. Htoo Wood Products Pte. Limited; Singapore; Yangon, Burma
6. Yuzana Company Limited (a.k.a. Yuzana Construction); Yangon, Burma
7. Zay Gabar Company (a.k.a. Zaykabar Company); Burma
 

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