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Gems and the junta
Very often described as one of the world’s poorest nations, Myanmar is probably the richest among the ten countries in Asean in terms of natural resources.

It is the source of up to 90 percent of the world’s rubies, and carat for carat the rare blood-red stones are worth more than diamonds. Jade, highly prized in China, is found almost nowhere else. Forget about the economic sanctions from the US and EU.

The junta is again poised to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars through the sale of precious gems and jewellery in November.

It will be the fifth gems auction this year, up from four last year. The junta is believed to have earned more than $100 million so far this year.

Quarterly Roundup & Outlook

Is press freedom universal?
• Zainuddin Maidin

There is no such thing as universal press freedom, at least for Zainuddin Maidin, Malaysian information minister who said fellow Asean and Asian countries should ignore the freedom ratings made by the Parisbased Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Zainuddin believes in local values when it comes to judging press freedom, saying RSF based the ratings on the Western values, mainly driven by the market and money.

He was commenting as RSF’s Malaysia's ratings plunged to 124th spot this year from 92nd in 2006 while Singapore edged up to 141st spot from 146th previously.

The Malaysian information chief had nothing but praises for Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's former prime minister, for fighting the Western values of press freedom and winning against the influential Financial Times recently.

“The only language understood by the Western media is when their pockets are hit,” remarked Zainuddin. RSF noted that in Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inacces ible.


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