Wednesday, May 15, 2024
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UK Jewelry Giant Withdraws ‘Blood Gems’ Funding Myanmar Junta

One of Britain’s biggest TV shopping channels and online jewelry retailers, TJC, is withdrawing Burmese rubies from sale.

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TJC’s move came after rights group Burma Campaign UK challenged 40 of the UK’s major jewelry firms to prove the gems they sell are not sourced from Myanmar in ways that help fund the military regime.

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Since the February 2021 coup, the military has taken control of a gems industry worth an estimated US$ 2 billion per year, the rights group said.

The junta extracts revenue from the industry in various ways, including via its own private companies, its control of state-owned enterprises and government ministries, control of trade routes, and both legal and illegal trade and business interests of military family members.

The huge revenue generated adds to state funds used to purchase weapons and equipment to support the junta’s brutal military campaign against the nationwide civilian and armed uprising.

In its reply to the rights group, TJC said the Burmese rubies it had been selling on its website were listed in error as it had an official policy not to source gems from Myanmar following the military coup.

The retailer said it had now withdrawn the Burmese gems from sale.

“Unfortunately, due to an unintended oversight, some Burmese jewelry items were mistakenly listed for sale on our platform. As soon as we became aware of this error, we took immediate action to rectify the situation,” TJC said in its response to the rights group.

“The listings were promptly removed, and we have taken steps to ensure that such an oversight does not occur again in the future,” it added.

TJC deserved praise for taking an ethical stance on the issue, said Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner, adding that he hoped other British jewelry retailers would do likewise.

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar reported last month that the junta has imported at least US$ 1 billion worth of weapons and related materials from Russia, China and other countries in less than two years.

The imports include fighter jets, helicopter gunships, reconnaissance and attack drones, advanced missile systems, tank upgrades, radio and communication equipment, radar complexes, and components for naval ships.

The deadly items have been used by the junta to commit atrocities against the people of Myanmar, the UN Special Rapporteur said.

The military regime has been escalating its campaign of artillery and airstrikes against both resistance and civilian targets as it struggles in ground battles.

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