“The Acting Commander from LIB 536, told us to take cash gifts to the army official’s wedding, if we attended the ceremony. We had to give in to the demand in fear of retaliation and since it was an army official’s wedding,” he said.
The wedding ceremony was held on February 3, 2009, for Corporal Thaung Tun Oo and his warrant officer Tun Myint’s daughter Nwe Nwe Soe at Ray Thon Ray Hall for the Rathidaung-based Light Infantry Battalion 536.
“The amount of cash was mentioned along with the invitation for a particular businessman and VPDC Chairman, as ordered by the acting commander of Light Infantry Battalion (536) Major Thein Nine to be given during the marriage,” the businessman said.
The Burmese Army had demanded Kyat 30,000 from a shrimp trading center, Kyat 15, 000 from one general store, Kyat 10,000 from a rice-mill and Kyat 15,000 to Kyat 30, 000 from a motor-boat owner inRathidaung Township, as gifts at the army personnel’s wedding.
Despite being unwilling to spend such a lot of money due to a crisis in their businesses, all the invited businessmen had to pay the recommended amount to avoid future problems with the army, another businessman said.
“The army had recommended a compulsory gift amount to be offered to the couple at the ceremony, while they were inviting us. Our businesses are not doing well currently and we were not willing to give such a lot of money. However, we had to pay because we are afraid of their interference in our business,” said the businessman.
The VPDC Chairmen of the township were also ordered to give not less than Kyat 5,000 by the army, a Chairman said.
According to local villagers, most of the chairmen had collected the cash from the villagers, citing the orders of the army.
According to a local source, Burmese Army battalions stationed in Arakan State used to collect illegal toll tax from local businessmen and rich men, whenever the army held any army official’s wedding ceremony or religious festivals.