A university lecturer is concerned for her former students taking a leading role in demonstrations against last month's military coup in Myanmar.
The violence escalated last week, and the UN confirmed at least another 38 people were killed.
Johanna Garnett is Lecturer in Peace Studies (and Sociology) at the University of New Engalnd in Armidale has lived and worked in Myanmar for extended periods since 2013.
"At the moment, the people I work with are fairly safe, but two of the young people are taking a leading role in the demonstrations, and I'm a bit concerned about that," Dr Garnett said.
"I have a PhD student here at UNE, we were together out doing fieldwork in Myanmar 2019, and one of his friends was killed last week, so he is quite depressed, and we are concerned for our shared cohorts.
"His contact who was killed was a young woman in her 30s who was killed (shot) in a protest in Dawei in Mon State in the south of the country.
"He also has a female contact who was arrested a month ago, and no-one knows her whereabouts and cannot contact her.
"This is not an unusual situation, and we have shared concerns for a number of our contacts and networks."
Dr Garnett said the Myanmar military is "a power unto themselves" and is forging a campaign of fear and intimidation.
"They are just taking potshots at protests and taking two or three people out in the hope that it will create an atmosphere of fear," she said.
Dr Garnett has lived and worked in Myanmar, teaching and assisting with developing leadership and community initiatives for peacebuilding in a post-conflict situation.
Her prime concern is giving voice to the 'voiceless' or 'silenced'; facilitating youth in their peacebuilding activities and promoting dialogue on structural, cultural and ecological violence facing agrarian communities, primarily in Myanmar but also in the Asia/Pacific region.
In 2019 she bought 9 acres of land with some Myanmar colleagues to establish The Permaculture Institute - Myanmar (the first of its kind in the country). This was to be developed as a training centre and demonstration farm in late 2020.
However, Dr Garnett's work on the farm and her research in the country (as for other academics at UNE working with students and organisations in Myanmar) has been disrupted, first by COVID-19, but more recently, and much more worryingly, by political events in the country.
"On the farm where my colleagues are at the school, there is a fence at the compound, and they said they are being intimidated by villagers," she said.
"The government released 23,000 criminals from the jails, and we understand the military and the police are paying them to run a campaign of intimidation."
A recent report in The Irrawaddy (a publication founded in 1993 by a group of Burmese journalists living in exile in Thailand ) said two people, including the local chair of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) in Magwe, were hacked to death by a group of military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members last Friday.
"But we are not seeing the protesters back down at all," Dr Garnett said.
"We are seeing them strengthen.
"Now you see the young people on the streets with a vest to identify themselves and wearing hard hats to prevent themselves from getting shot in the head. Because the military has told the police to take chest and headshots - aim to kill not to maim.
"Literally, if you keep your head down, you're safe, but generally, the feeling we're getting from the movement over there is that they are going to keep going."
On February 1, the military, known as the Tatmadaw,took over the recently democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy, which had won with 83 per cent of the vote.
"The army alleges that the recent landslide win was marred by fraud, and they, the military, have declared a one-year state of emergency," Dr Garnett explained.
"Troops and police are patrolling the streets, curfews are in place, and the internet and mobile phone services are being monitored and controlled."
However, despite these draconian practices, the people in Myanmar, including many of the young people Dr Garnett has lived and worked with or met on her travels around the country, are actively protesting the military coup, putting themselves at risk of retribution and persecution.
"They want to shine the spotlight on what is going on through the posting of confronting images on social media," Dr Garnett said.
"They are continuing to document the atrocities and broadcast that to the world at large."
That approach is a key difference to what has happened during the past political upheavals in the country, Dr Garnett said and is facilitated by global communications.
"In that respect, it gives us academics a lot of data to analyse and document the situation," she said.
"So there is a lot of commentary, but no one is coming up with any practical solutions, which is incredibly frustrating.
"The international community is failing to intervene in any shape or form, and so it really is now an internal affair, and the only way that anything is going to happen is if the protesters keep up the momentum and the pressure on the military.
"They're doing that through a variety of ways, and I don't see them backing down, so I am really fearful for the ones clearly identifying themselves as leaders whether that be on social media, or holding workshops, or training and engaging with the diaspora and with people like myself for support.
"Although there is so little we can do from afar."
Australia is one of a small number of nations that has maintained cooperation with Myanmar's armed forces in the wake of a brutal 2017 campaign of ethnic cleansing waged against the Rohingya minority.
Dr Garnett said she and her colleagues had emailed local authorities.
"The UK and the US were quick to condemn this and impose sanctions, but we as a soft power seem so slow to condemn or speak up," she said.
"Our conservative government is so scared to take a stance on immorality - this is such an immoral act from the military."
However, the Australian government has now announced it is making major changes to its diplomatic relationship with Myanmar and redirecting humanitarian aid in response to the military coup in the country.
In a statement released on Sunday night, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne flagged the government's "grave concerns" about the "escalating violence and rising death toll" in protests against the coup.
"We condemn the use of lethal force or violence against civilians exercising their universal rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," she said.
Dr Garnett said the military has also arrested many more people, public servants, teachers and government department agents who have refused to adhere to the military directives.
"We understand there is a group of people who have been put into a school compound, and we're not sure what is happening to them," she said.
"But the sense we are getting as observers and analysts is the movement is still strong and possibly gaining momentum in key areas like public servants and bank employees.
"People that could make a difference because they are undermining the administration of the military - that is key because if you stop essential services, then you are weakening the state.
"My contacts are still posting regularly on social media when they can."
What is most concerning now, according to Dr Garnett, is that the protestors are beginning to arm themselves for protection, to defend themselves, and this will mean an escalation of violence generally.
They see it as a fight to the death many of them - they don't have much more to lose.
"They're very stoic and being very brave, and they are very determined because seriously if they don't now overturn this military, their youth is gone - this is their lives gone - and they then grow into adulthood under an authoritarian regime like their parents did and they don't want that," she said.
"They've had a glimpse of freedom and engagement with the west. They've developed in a modernised Myanmar, so they've seen the potential and opportunities for a different type of world, and they refuse to go back to authoritarian rule.
"They see it as a fight to the death many of them - they don't have much more to lose. They are holding up the poor young people who are shot as martyrs."
More than 50 people have been killed since the February 1 military coup in Myanmar, and more than 1,400 people have been detained.
Last Friday, a closed meeting on Myanmar at the United Nations Security Council failed to agree a response to the violence.
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