US slaps sanctions on Myanmar state gem company

The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on Myanmar’s state gem company, vowing to deprive the military junta of a key moneymaker as it violently suppresses democracy protests. 

The Treasury Department said it would block all assets and ban any transactions with the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which manages the mining and marketing of the country’s jade and other gemstones.

The United States is committed to “denying the Burmese military sources of funding, including from key state-owned enterprises throughout Burma,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, using Myanmar’s former name.

“The United States will continue to work tirelessly, including with partners throughout the region and the world, to support the restoration of democracy and rule of law in Burma and to bring accountability to those who seek to undermine these values.”

The United States has already imposed targeted sanctions on leaders of the military who seized power on February 1, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and launching a crackdown in which hundreds have died.

The latest action stops short of returning to a total US ban on the sale of Myanmar’s prized jade and rubies as was in place when the military was last in power.

The so-called JADE Act, which Congress lifted in 2016, was popular in Washington but faced criticism that it hurt small-scale miners and traders who were already suffering under military rule.

The Treasury Department said the new sanctions “are not directed at the people of Burma.”