Yangon (AsiaNews) – London Market Aviation Insurer has suspended its policies agreed with Myanmar Airways International (Mai), former Burma’s national airline, joining the international boycott launched in the wake of the violent repression of anti-regime protests at the end of September. The imitative has led to the suppression of daily flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumper, du to lack of insurance coverage.
The British company has united itself to the world’s leading jewel traders, who openly aligned themselves against the Burmese junta, which reaps significant profits from trade in precious stones. The Italian Bulgari group has asked its suppliers to halt all acquisitions of precious stoned from Myanmar, while underlining that “for some time already” it had put a stop to all direct trade in gems with the Asian nation. A few days ago Cartier and Tiffany & Co followed suit. All three have also asked suppliers to provide guarantees for the geographical origins of the minerals, as has the Italian Damiani. The problem, however, is that Myanmar exports its rough gems to third parties – such as Thailand and China – where once they are cut and cleaned are then sold on, in doing so it avoids all bans and prohibitions.
For the past 700 years, the ''Valley of Rubies'' in the Mogok region of northeast Burma has been mined for ''pigeon blood'' rubies _ considered the finest in the world _ as well as for sapphires and other rare gems. 90% of the world’s rubies originate here and the sale of these gems represents a massive earning for the Nation. Rubies are mined at a huge human cost, with reports of horrific working conditions in ruby mines, which outsiders are forbidden to see. Moreover mine owners count on forced labour. There are also reports of soaring Aids infection rates among mine workers due to needle-sharing by addicts and widespread prostitution, with drugs shipped in by local traffickers.
The generals control trade in precious gems since 1964, which guarantees over 200 million Euro in earnings each year: the third main source of wealth after teak wood and natural gas.