WASHINGTON-Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) – The United States has waived a law to accept thousands of refugees from Myanmar ‘s Chin state currently living in Malaysia , Thailand and India , the State Department said Thursday. Most of them had fled to the neighbouring nations after battling the military junta in Myanmar .

A stringent anti-terrorism law passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks prevent people who provide “material support” to armed groups from resettling in the United States .

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “exercised her discretionary exemption authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act, so that Chin refugees living in Malaysia , Thailand , and India can resettle in the United States ,” a State Department statement said. She took the action “even if they had provided ‘material support’ to the Chin National Front (CNF) or Chin National Army (CNA),” groups that had been battling the Myanmar military, the statement said.

But it added that the applicants must meet other eligibility requirements for resettlement, “including that they pose no danger to the safety and security of the United States . “This determination will allow the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve otherwise eligible Chin refugees for admission to the United States,” the statement said.

The Department of Homeland Security is the agency responsible for adjudicating refugee applications for the US Refugee Admissions Program. “Exercising the exemption authority allows the United States to resume significant processing of the thousands of extremely vulnerable ethnic Chin refugees living in Malaysia and elsewhere,” the statement said.

Rice has previously exercised the same authority to accept Myanmar ‘s Karen refugees in camps in Thailand . Myanmar ‘s military junta is regularly criticized by governments and human rights groups over the treatment of political opponents, particularly Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past 17 years.

The UN Security Council in September backed a US proposal to put the issue of political repression and human rights violations in Myanmar on its formal agenda. pp/mac .

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