Myanmar Gem Industry Meets With The Myanmar Military

Several top gem industry figures attended a meeting hosted by the junta-controlled Myanmar Gems Enterprise recently to discuss securing new technology and foreign investment for the sector, a leaked invitation letter shows.
A total of 20 presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of gem and jewelry associations convened in Naypyitaw on June 2021 30 via Zoom from Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, and Kachin.
Aung Kyaw Win, vice president of the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association and husband of junta-appointed cabinet member Thet Thet Khine, organized their participation. The meeting was also hosted by him.
As Myanmar’s second-largest export after oil and gas, gems are a vital source of income for the junta, as the movement to remove it from power seeks ways to cut off its funding.
Myanmar Gems Enterprise was sanctioned in April and May by the US and the UK. The majority of Myanmar’s jade, rubies, and other gems, however, are imported from China, and much gems trading takes place on the black market.
In the agenda at recent meeting, association leaders discussed the availability of ore, technology and funding, foreign investment flows, taxes, and online sales.
Recently, Myanmar’s underground National Unity Government said that any business projects approved by the military council were “null and void,” and that those involved in such projects would “be held criminally responsible.”
It also warned entrepreneurs against doing business with the junta-controlled natural resources ministry as they could be “blacklisted” and face other legal measures.
According to a gemstone entrepreneur who requested anonymity, the attendees at the meeting could help the coup regime gain access to more funds by providing expert advice on how to develop the sector in exchange for permits and licenses.
Therefore, they should be “socially punished.”
“All they had to do was refuse to attend the meeting at a time when everyone was participating in Civil Disobedience, but there they were,” said the entrepreneur.”
Aung Kyaw Win owns a chain of jewelry stores called Shwe Nan Daw, which has been boycotted by anti-coup protesters, as well as a branch of Victorious Gems in Singapore.
His wife, Thet Thet Khine, gained a position of power in the junta’s cabinet after her People’s Pioneer Party lost badly in the 2020 general election.
Yangon Gem and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association members Myint Thet Naing, the director of the Naing Family (Mogok) Gems and Jewellery Company, and Aung Kyaw Zin, director of SP Gems, attended the meeting last week.
The association’s second secretary, Mra Thidar, and treasurer Nyunt Nyunt Khaing were also present. They jointly own the company Special Jewellery – Mra & Khaing.
During the junta, Than Shwe appointed Soe Mra to head the department of mining. Soe Mra’s daughter, Thidar, is the daughter of Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the department.
Those opposed to the coup consider the duo knowledgeable about bringing gems to international markets. “They know everything there is to know about the gems business, from transport to sales. That’s why [Aung Kyaw Win] invited them to the workshop.”
Sources in the gem industry said that exporters were thinking about falsifying the origin of their stones and selling them out of Thailand to avoid sanctions.
It was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, but a gems emporium was held in Naypyitaw after the February 1 coup, though items were heavily discounted.

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