Burmese rubies generate about $500 million annually. They account for over 90 percent of the global ruby trade. The U.S. bans the rubies because profits benefit Burma’s military junta. But as the junta initiates reforms, observers wonder how long the sanctions will remain.
Until last week, no U.S. secretary of state had visited Burma - considered one of the most repressive regimes in the world - since 1955. Secretary Hillary Clinton's historic visit changed all that, marking a turning point in diplomatic relations between the U.S.
Recently, journalist Kyaw Kyaw Aung of Radio Free Asia published an unprecedented interview with Tint Swe, the powerful head of Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department. In it, the official pledged to end press censorship.
The Burmese government, one of the most repressive in the world, may be moving toward reform. Last week, authorities pledged to ease harsh censorship laws and released more than 200 political prisoners – with a pledge to release hundreds more.