Myanmar students living in Australia welcome a move to extend their visas so they can remain here lawfully after a brutal coup by the military in their homeland.

Law student Ashley Paing says there is “no value of law” in her country, where Myanmar’s military has taken power in a coup that has left hundreds dead.
Key points:

  • Students from Myanmar are relieved they can stay in Australia 
  • The military seized power in a bloody coup, leaving hundreds dead 
  • A swimmer based in Melbourne has given up on the Tokyo Olympics to protest against the regime

The country’s brutal history at the hands of the military, known as the Tatmadaw, was one of the reasons she wanted to come to Australia to study.
“I couldn’t accept it. And that’s why I come abroad to learn the actual law,” she said.
The international student has been vocal at anti-military protests here in Australia, and she fears that has made her a target back home.
More than 3,600 people have been arrested since the February 1 coup, and more than 760 people have been killed, many of them young people and students like Ashley.
Now the Australian government has said it will extend visas so Myanmar citizens can “remain here until it is safe for them to return home”.
“It was a big relief for me, because I feel like now the Australian government is hearing our voices,” she said.
“If I have to go back home, definitely, they will take me to jail, for sure.”
Student Kyi Phyu Moe Htet is at the forefront of protests in Australia against Myanmar’s military.(Supplied
The move was also welcomed by urban planning and politics student Kyi Phyu Moe Htet, whose visa is set to expire in a few months.
“It’s good news for students who continue to exercise their freedom of speech,” she said.
“We can do that in Australia, but back in Myanmar, we won’t be able to freely do so.
Kyi Phyu Moe Htet says it’s an immense relief to be able to stay in Australia, as her visa was set to expire in the next few months.(ABC News: Erin Handley
“If we’re fighting for what we truly believe in and what we truly deserve, I think that’s a risk that’s worth taking.”
Swimmer gives up Tokyo Olympics bid
For some, the move was long overdue  visa extensions on humanitarian grounds were flagged in March, and were reportedly imminent.
Swimmer Win Htet Oo told the ABC the plight of Myanmar is more important than his Olympic ambitions.(Supplied
But the development was welcomed by Melbourne resident Win Htet Oo, who has recently given up his dream of swimming at the Tokyo Olympics. 
“I pre-emptively rejected any opportunity to be selected by the Myanmar Olympic Committee,” he said.
“They are a puppet organisation of a genocidal regime.
“My personal athletic dream of participating in the Olympics has gone but, you know, there’s more to life than what an individual wants in light of what’s going on in Myanmar, there are a lot more pressing issues.”
He said the move from Australia would help alleviate the anxiety of many Myanmar citizens in the country, who not only fear for their own safety, but for their family members back home.
He said he would also like to see Australia recognise the National Unity Government (NUG) a civilian body that was set up after the military coup.
While he has given up on Tokyo, he is still determined to pursue his “ultimate” dream  to use sport as a path for reconciliation, peace and development in Myanmar.
Ms Paing said Australia needed to “be careful” when it came to visa extensions for any relatives of the military in Australia, and she also wanted more clarity about the visa rules.
Law student Ashley Paing said the visa extension was a “big relief”.(Supplied: Ashley Paing
She was concerned about students being able to pay their university fees on time in order to remain lawfully in the country.
International students cannot work more than 40 hours a fortnight, and due to COVID-19 and the coup, it has been difficult to get financial support from family back home, she said.
But she is immensely grateful to be living and studying in Australia.
“I believe one day, I could help when I go back [to] my country, to [help] all my people to know what the real law is.”