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Call for boycott of 'blood jade' at the Olympics
Much in the manner of the campaign against 'blood diamonds', Myanmar activists have urged the boycott of Myanmarese 'blood jade' at the Beijing Olympic Games to stop the junta from raking in millions of dollars and buy weapons to suppress its people
IN A throw back to the campaign over 'blood diamonds' emanating out of Africa, global consumers, spectators and those participating in the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 have been asked to shun 'blood jade' from Myanmar.

Activists for the cause of democracy and human rights in Myanmar have asked those visiting Beijing to boycott souvenirs and jewellery made of Myanmarese jade so as not to lend any support to the repressive Myanmar military regime which rakes in a huge amount of revenue from the jade mining industry and funds its weapons purchase. In the process of earning the large amount of cash it resorts to human rights violation of the worst kind in the country's jade mining industry.

A report released yesterday called the 'Blood Jade: Burmese Gemstones and the Beijing Games' by All Kachin Students and Youths Union (AKSYU) and 8-8-08 for Burma, appeals to individuals, global consumers, Olympic spectators and Olympic athletes and visitors to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics to boycott the sale of Myanmar's blood jade, the Myanmar media in exile reports.

Interestingly, for the first time in the history pf the Olympic Games medals will include a material other than gold, silver, and bronze. The medals of the Beijing Games will have Chinese nephrite jade. But Myanmar's jadeite has overtaken nephrite in popularity in China. And gem-quality jade, a class of jadeite, is only produced by Myanmar and all mining activities are under the thumb of the military junta and its cronies.

“The Beijing Organising Committee of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) and the government of the Peoples Republic of China should take immediate action to curb the global trade in blood jade, beginning by ending their promotion of jade products from Myanmar,” the report widely quoted in the Myanmar media in exile said.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But how can Burma's blood jade retain its beauty in our eyes when we know what has gone into it and that jade profits are propping up, probably even arming, the junta?” Cristina Moon, executive director of the 8888 for Burma was quoted as asking.

However, it is a relief that the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games has sourced the jade for the Olympic medals and official souvenirs from China and not Myanmar, she said.

China insists the jade that it is using in Olympic medals is from Qinghai province in China, but with Myanmar's 'Imperial Green' jade the only source of gem-quality jade in the world, campaigners have a sneaking suspicion that a variety of Myanmarese jade is being sold as souvenirs in China, reports said.

The growing demand for jade from Myanmar is a worrying factor and the Olympic promotion of jade will only heighten the demand from Myanmarese mines. Activists fear that the junta will use the money from jade to purchase weapons and continue to suppress dissent unless people around the world take a stand and boycott it.

The report also provides details of how the military junta rakes in millions of dollars annually from the export of jade, primarily to China.

“Jadeite production comes at significant costs to the human rights and environmental security of the people living in Kachin state in Myanmar. Land confiscation and forced relocation are commonplace and improper mining practices lead to frequent accidents at basic wages of less than US $1 per day,” the report points out.

“Our mountains have disappeared and our youth are dying. The generals are letting their cronies mine away our future,” Naw La of the AKSYU was quoted as saying. The organisation urged people not to buy Myanmarese jade.

“It is critically important that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the rest of the Olympic movement find clear and creative means to distance itself from the trade in Myanmarese blood jade to protect the integrity of the most important symbols of the Olympics and the fundamental values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. They should take swift action to safeguard the trust of the world citizens who are at risk of becoming unwitting parties to a global blood jade industry mired in a system of abuse and lawlessness,” the report concludes.

On July 29, US president George W Bush signed and enacted a law from a legislation to stop US retailers of Myanmar gems from legally profiting from the trade.
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