Cash-strapped Myanmar ends biggest gems auction | india | Hindustan Times
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Cash-strapped Myanmar ends biggest gems auction

india Updated: Jul 03, 2006 19:40 IST
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Military-run Myanmar said on Monday it had sold over 70 per cent of the jade and precious stones offered at its biggest-ever gem auction, a key source of income for the cash-strapped junta.

Some 2,300 lots of jade, or 72 per cent of the total, had sold during the 13 day auction that ended Sunday in Yangon, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The military government refused to say how much it had earned from the sale, but deputy mining minister Myint Thein said it was expected to beat the 53 million euros (63 million dollars) earned at the last auction in March.

Some 2,300 merchants, including 1,450 foreigners mainly from China and Thailand attended the auction, with the number of jade buyers double those at the last sale.

Lots also included rubies and pearls.

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.

But the impact of the sanctions has been weakened by the eagerness of neighboring China, India and Thailand to tap Myanmar's vast natural wealth to fuel their own growing economies.

Myanmar now holds biannual jade auctions in a bid to curb gem smuggling, which deprives the government of much-needed foreign currency, and has increased the size and frequency of gem sales to several times a year.

Myanmar's natural wealth includes natural gas and minerals, as well as highly-prized teak which often disappears onto the black market.

The black market is estimated to be at least half the size of the formal economy.