(Rapaport…February 13, 2001) The Thai Diamond Manufacturers Association has denied a report in the Far Eastern Economic Review that Bangkok is becoming a regional clearinghouse for diamonds from conflict zones in Africa.
According to the report, couriers mainly from West African countries have smuggled conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone and Angola into Thailand, often through other African countries. The allegations state that the diamonds were cut in Bangkok and were issued new certificates of origin to conceal the fact that they were conflict diamonds.
Chirakitti Tang, president of the Thai Diamond Manufacturer’s Association, dismissed the reports and told the Bangkok Post that the 30 diamond manufacturers in Thailand did not import, smuggle or launder diamonds from conflict zones. He said that Thailand imported rough diamonds worth $787 million in 2000, up 30 percent from the previous year. Most were from Israel ($191 million) and Belgium ($185 million). Imports from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an African conflict zone, ranked as the fourth largest with $57 million in 2000 – up 23 percent from 1999.
Tang also stated that although Thailand had not yet faced any financial impact from conflict diamonds, if the U.S. Senate endorsed new laws, it could affect many countries, including Thailand.
Thailand exported diamonds worth $529 million in 2000, a 23 percent increase from the prior year. The largest export market was Israel ($222 million), followed by Belgium ($207 million), Hong Kong ($41 million) and the United States ($20 million).