Anti-Myanmar groups on Monday urged visitors to the Beijing Olympic Games not to buy jade from Myanmar sold in China because the revenues from such sales prop up the military dictatorship in the impoverished nation, the dpa reported.
The Olympic medals awarded in Beijing include jade in addition to the precious metals of gold, silver and bronze. It is the first time gems or stones are to be incorporated into the medals.
China has said it has ensured the medals contain no Myanmar jade, but groups protesting Myanmar's regime are worried the promotion of jade will increase demand for the stone, including that mined in Myanmar.
"We are relieved that the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games has sourced the jade for the Olympic medals and official souvenirs from China," said Cristina Moon of the group 8-8- 08 for Burma, which along with the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU) issued statements in New York.
They said the jade produced in the Kachin state of Myanmar is superior in quality to the nephrite jade widely found in China.
They called Myanmar's jade "blood jade" drawing similarities to "blood diamonds" mined in some West African countries, profits from which were used to fuel wars in that region. Such diamonds have fallen under strict international monitoring and a certification process, but it has not been proven that jade profits have had the same impact as money from the so-called blood diamonds.
"But there is a growing demand for Burmese jade that will only increase due to the Olympic promotion of jade," she said. "The generals will keep using their jade profits to buy weapons and crush dissent in Burma unless individuals take a stand."
US President George W Bush last week signed legislation banning the imports to the US of Myanmar's precious gems and stones, including jade. The US has imposed a set of bilateral sanctions against Myanmar for its refusal to democratize the country.
Myanmar is known for gem-quality jade, the mining of which is under the control of the military government. Human rights groups have accused that government of severe abuses of mining workers.
Myanmar's jade eclipses the nephrite jade mined China and is the most sought after in the Chinese jewelry industry. The boycott call was aimed at the throng of tourists visiting China during the Summer Olympic Games opening on Friday.