Sep 16, 2007
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Myanmar to auction gems, jewellery in November

Sep 16, 2007

YANGON, Sept 16, 2007 (AFP) - Myanmar will auction off more precious gems and jewellery in November in the fifth such sale this year aimed at bringing foreign currency into the isolated nation, state media reported Sunday.

"National entrepreneurs are to contact Myanmar Gems Emporium Central Committee and have their gems and jewellery scrutinised," the government-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said. It gave no exact dates for the sale.

Military-ruled Myanmar is one of the world's poorest nations and is subject to US and European economic sanctions because of human rights abuses and the house arrest of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A hike in fuel prices on August 15 left many people unable to afford even the trip to work, sparking rare demonstrations across the country.

A wealth of oil, gas and other natural resources, however, has lined the junta's coffers, with India, China and Thailand jostling to exploit their neighbour's natural wealth to fuel their growing economies.

Previous gem and jade auctions, which attract buyers from all over the world, are believed to have earned the junta more than 100 million dollars.

Myanmar is the source of up to 90 percent of the world's rubies and has rich jade deposits that are highly prized in neighbouring China.

The junta has been holding gem auctions with increasing frequency. Four were held in 2006.

Some exiled pro-democracy groups have urged people to boycott the auctions, accusing the ruling military junta of using forced labour to mine gems.

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