Policies & Issues

US Government Sanctions Burmese State-Owned Pearl Co.

Policies & IssuesApr 22, 2021

US Government Sanctions Burmese State-Owned Pearl Co.

Myanmar Pearl Enterprise handles oyster fishing and breeding, as well as the culturing, harvesting, and selling of pearls.

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. government has sanctioned another Burmese gem company in an effort to block sources of revenue for the military regime.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement Wednesday it has designated the pearl export body Myanmar Pearl Enterprise (MPE), meaning U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with MPE or any of its affiliates.

The move also freezes its U.S. assets. 

MPE is a state-owned enterprise under the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation that provides a key source of revenue to Myanmar’s now-military-controlled government, the office said. 

It’s responsible for oyster fishing, collecting, and breeding as well as the culturing, harvesting, and selling of pearls, which it does through the Myanmar Pearl Event. 

MPE also approves licenses for oyster fishing and oyster shell collecting/selling, as well as registration of oyster diving vessels and pearl and oyster technicians. 

“The Burmese military derives significant funding from state-owned enterprises in the natural resources market,” said OFAC Director Andrea Gacki. 

“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to targeting this specific funding channel and promoting accountability for those responsible for the coup and ongoing violence.” 

Data regarding the size of the Burmese pearl market wasn’t available by press time. 

Wednesday’s move to sanction Burmese pearls is far from the first step the U.S. government has taken to cut off the resources being funneled to the Burmese military responsible for the Feb. 1 coup.

And it’s not likely to be the last as the U.S. government continues its investigation into where the military is getting its money.

In regards to the gem trade, sanctions so far have included two of the country’s entities with mining interests, three gemstone companies, and Myanma Gems Enterprise, the state-owned entity responsible for nearly all gem activities in Myanmar. 
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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