Why Trade Sanctions Have Not Worked in the Gems
and Jade Trade
first sanctions were imposed in 1997. A second set was imposed in
2003. There are five different aspects of sanctions:
1. Ban on investments
2. Restrictions on financial
3. Ban of money
4. Freeze on assets
5. Ban on importation of jade and
Regarding the last aspect: There are four sub areas in
Kachin State where mining takes place. The largest is Phakant,
constituting 1,864 square miles; the smaller mining areas are Lonkin
Wai Kha Tar MaKhan. Phakant was originally a small village called Aung
Mingla, in Jingpaw; “phakant” means a fallen mountain, and that is how
the jade mining area was exposed and renamed.
Win and the SLORC Generals deserve all contempt and opprobrium they
receive. However, the jade mines in Burma are not gulags; the terrain
does not permit this. People who describe such gulags have not visited
this area, where the mines are spread over 2,338.87 square miles of
most daunting jungle, mountains, and valleys and comprise 1,400 mining
There are about 100,000 miners involved in mining,
cutting, polishing, trading, and selling the output from the mines.
That human rights are violated is a given, but to charge that local
authorities induce trading in sex and drugs is a exaggeration; the
high rate of HIV/AIDS has more to do with easy availability of drugs
that cause HIV. One report quotes a resident, Aour
lives are difficult so I use many drugs: I smoke heroin and use
alcohol. Drugs are sold openly in many shops of Hpakhant. The
government soldiers do nothing to stop to close the shops.” Such
reports are common.
Sanctions were first imposed in 1997, but not
specifically on the jade trade. Then in 2003, at the behest of the
expat community, President Bush imposed more onerous and targeted
sanctions against trade in gems and jade. Sanctions have not forced
mines to close, however; trade in gems and jade have increased
exponentially. Sales actually reached a high of 1 billion for the
first time in 2006–07. Why is this?
First, almost all the jade mined at Phakant goes to
China. Most sales are through auctions in Rangoon. Trade with the U.S.
is negligent; the trade is primarily intra-Asian.
Second, the way the law was set up and what the
expatiate community advised Congress to do is more focused on
individual rich oligarchs than on reality. Jade is banned, but not Maw
Sit Sit, which has a market here in the U.S. Rubies are banned, but
not sapphire and spinel, which also has a market here.
have been gathering statistics on sales for many years. From 1964 to
2002, sales of gems and jade totaled $390,638,311 (source: MGE and
Burma’s Central Statistical Office). When sanctions first went into
effect in 1997, total sales were $9,398,297. In 2002, before the
second round of sanctions went into effect, total sales were
$50,803,751. After 2004, despite sanctions, sales increased
exponentially (sales after 2005 were reported in Euros but are here
converted into U.S. dollars). In 2007–08 the country produced 20,235
tons of jade, 22.668 million carats of gemstones (including ruby,
sapphire, spinel, and peridot), and 846 kilograms of pearl (www.burmanet.org/news
for 6/302009); sales income, mostly from jade,
totaled $647.53 million (Burma’s Central Statistical Office). At the
March 2009 auction, more than 5,000 lots of jade were displayed, $191
million of gems and jewelry were sold, and more than 2,300 traders
participated, mostly from China and Hong Kong (www.burmanet.org/news for 6/302009). In 2011, Naypyitaw reported
participation of 8,719 traders at auctions. Most were from Asian
companies; local traders numbered 3,719.
figures speak for themselves; no further comment on the effect of
sanctions is necessary.