Rohingya resist push to return amid Bangladesh, Myanmar repatriation deal

Rohingya resist push to return amid Bangladesh, Myanmar repatriation deal

Rohingya resist push to return amid Bangladesh, Myanmar repatriation deal

Updated 22 January 2018, 15:45 AEDT

Mustafa Khatun, in her late 50s and mother to 10 children, fled violence at the hands of the Myanmar army in August.

Mustafa Khatun has fled her native Myanmar three times.

The first time, in the 1970s, she was a girl.

Her family was repatriated.

The second time, in the 1990s, she was a wife.

Again, she and her husband were repatriated from a refugee camp in Bangladesh, back to Myanmar.

Now, she is in her late 50s, and mother to 10 children.

In August, she was again forced to flee violence at the hands of the Myanmar army.

A woman with a gentle face and soft eyes, she sobs as she recounts the story.

Starving for days, she says.

Running with her children. Hiding in the forest.

This time, she says, she is not going back.

"I don't want to go back, I'm not interested in going back, even if I am beaten or killed. They can kill us here," she says.

"They persecuted us a lot, killed, burnt whole families, raped them.

"We cannot sleep because of this nightmare.

"I am happy for my children to grow up in Bangladesh, but I am not happy if they grow up in Myanmar, there is always fear and unhappiness there."

Gentle, soft and sorrow-filled, Ms Khatun is just one of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who this week are waiting for the next step in a bilateral deal in which they have had no say, but that will determine their futures.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation agreement in November, and it's meant to come into effect this week.

What that means exactly is unknown. The UN has been refused a role in the process, with the two countries crafting their deal away from international scrutiny.

It is unlikely that there will be any international scrutiny of its execution, either, at least not in Myanmar.

The country has severely restricted access to aid groups, international organisations and the media.

Television reports from inside Myanmar have shown what the Government generously describes as "camps" it has built for returning Rohingyas to live in.

More than 350 Rohingya villages were burnt down in the violence last August, so they have nowhere else to go, and are fearful of what they describe as "concentration camps".

The UN has described the violence, torture, rape and killings perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya as akin to ethnic cleansing.

It is no wonder that no one in the camps wants to return across the border.

Bangladesh will continue to groan under the strain of nearly 1 million refugees, more than 600,000 of whom came in the last exodus.

The Rohingya remain the people that no one wants.

All they want is safety and dignity in the land in which they were born.