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Ken and Marg Tustin have been receiving increasingly worrying reports of the Myanmar military’s violent crackdown on citizens protesting this month’s coup, especially in the city where their friends live, Mandalay.
"We’re frightened for them. Our hearts are in our mouths with every message we get from them," Mr Tustin said yesterday.
Protests have been gaining momentum throughout Myanmar since the military overthrew the elected government earlier this month.
At the weekend, huge crowds attended the funeral of a young woman shot in the head during protests in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw. It is being reported at least two other people have died in protests.
However, information from the Tustins’ friends, who live in Myanmar’s second-largest city, puts the death toll in Mandalay alone at nine, in addition to dozens of people with life-threatening injuries.
Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, has had the biggest demonstrations since the February 1 coup.Hundreds of thousands of protesters have called for the restoration of the elected government and the release of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. To date, the military has not used force against protesters in Yangon.
It is a different story in other centres, including Mandalay.
Mr Tustin flew helicopters in Myanmar in the early 1990s. He and Mrs Tustin had maintained close connections with several friends in Mandalay, they said.
One of those friends had been documenting the anti-coup protests and the military’s response, in text, photo and video.
He had been providing the increasingly violent details to the Tustins in the hope it could be shared publicly outside Myanmar, bringing pressure to bear on the coup leaders.
He told them two people died on February 9 when a 4WD was driven in to a crowd of protesters.
Many others were injured, he said.
On February 12, he detailed unverified reports of 23,000 prisoners being released and a textile factory being forced to urgently make 45,000 police uniforms.
He has also mentioned unverified rumours of Chinese soldiers in the country, and reported live bullets being fired into crowds, as well as many more deaths.
Video has emerged of police baton charges, people being beaten and injured people being led off to military vehicles.
The Tustins’ friend said people were determined to not let their country return to the military rule that dominated Myanmar for decades, they said.
"The only weapon they have is information," Mr Tustin said
"Day-by-day it is progressively more harrowing.
"It is being sent to us with pleas to tell the world what is happening."