Pop megastar Rihanna received a good deal of criticism for her performance during Sunday’s NFL Superbowl Halftime Show, but it was what she was wearing during the performance that has led to outcry from those opposed to Myanmar’s brutal military junta.
The activist group “Justice for Myanmar” called out Rihanna in a Twitter thread yesterday noting that the popstar had been wearing a Burmese ruby ring worth $1 million from New York City’s Bayco Jewels, which sells a number of pieces prominently featuring gems from Myanmar.
The activist group argues “Myanmar gems fund junta atrocities” and calls for a ban on their trade.
According to Bayco, the ring Rihanna was wearing features “a rare natural, unheated 19.47-carat sugarloaf cabochon Burma Ruby”.
While Myanmar has been mired in economic turmoil ever since the military overthrew the civilian government in February 2021 — due to economic sanctions, widespread worker strikes and internal military conflicts with anti-junta forces — one of the ways the junta government has managed to sustain itself is through the sale of gems. Myanmar is one of the top sources of precious stones in the world and is particularly well known for the quality of its rubies.
A report released by human rights watchdog Global Witness in December 2021 detailed how some of the world’s most famous jewelers risked funding the junta by selling rubies that were likely sourced from mines in the military-ruled country.
“There is no such thing as an ethically sourced Burmese ruby,” Clare Hammond, senior Myanmar campaigner at Global Witness, said in a statement. “These gemstones are sold as symbols of human connection and affection, yet the supply chain is steeped in corruption and horrific human rights abuses.”
Although the U.S. has sanctioned some of the major suppliers of gemstones from Myanmar, legislation that would ban their import completely has not been passed and many major international retailers still engage in their trade.
Rihanna is clearly aware of what’s happening in Myanmar. She was widely praised in February 2021 for this tweet raising awareness about the then-recent coup.
As Justice for Myanmar notes in their thread, Rihanna’s fellow artists have been prominent among the victims of the junta’s violence, which has killed an estimated 2,400 civilians.
Justice for Myanmar ends their thread with a call for Rihanna to stand with the people of Myanmar by boycotting Myanmar gems and calling for a ban on their trade.
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