Dec 13, 2008
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Myanmar to hold five-day gems auction: state media

Dec 13, 2008

Photo : Khin Maung Win/AFP
YANGON, Dec 13, 2008 (AFP) - Military-run Myanmar announced Saturday it would hold an auction of precious gems in Yangon early next year, despite economic sanctions banning their international trade.

The auction would be held January 5-9 at Myanmar Gems Pavilion in Yangon, the Burmese-language Myanma Ahlin newspaper said.

Buyers would have to pay an entrance fee of 10,000 kyats (8.5 dollars), with a higher charge for foreigners, the paper said.

Sellers would also pay a commission fee of between one and three percent to the state on top of a jewellery tax, it said.

Myanmar last held a gems auction in October but did not reveal how much it made from the sales.

At an earlier sale in March, 7,700 lots were sold, valued at more than 100 million euros (153 million dollars).

Myanmar, one of the world's poorest countries, is the source of some of the world's most beautiful rubies -- a key source of revenue for the ruling junta.

The United States blocked imports of Myanmar's gems in July, passing new legislation to prevent the gems entering US markets via third-party countries.

Europe also intensified economic sanctions on the regime after a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last year, while Washington and human rights groups have urged gem buyers to boycott the sales.

Myanmar's two biggest customers, neighbouring China and Thailand, have continued to attend the frequently held gem auctions.

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