Gem Traders Worldwide to Fight Burma Ban

The world’s gemstone traders will fight a new U.S. law banning the sale of Burmese rubies and sapphires, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports.

The new law, which went into effect Monday, makes it illegal for American gem dealers to buy Burmese products – even if the stones have been cut, polished, and re-traded from a third country.

Previously the law banned gems bought directly from Burma but not those traded via other countries.

Dave Mathieson from Human Rights Watch told Radio Australia that closing the legal loophole was a small but important step.

But the International Colored Gemstone Association describes the law as “well-meaning” but “misguided” because it will affect those who need to earn a living.

The production of opium poppies in Burma has decreased over the last decade, but some farmers are choosing to go back to the lucrative drug trade.

However, Mathieson disagrees that those at the bottom of the industry will be hardest hit.

Since the 1960s, Burma has held annual gem sales and at the trade fair earlier this month, more two thousand dealers spent an estimated $175 million on Burmese gems, according to ABC.

Human rights groups say this money funds Burma’s repressive military, but ICA says only around 5 percent of the profits from gemstones filters back to the Burmese regime.