FOR a while, a year or two ago, it seemed that some progress might be made with the brutal generals who rule Myanmar (Burma). However reluctantly accepted on their part, international co-operation in the relief effort following the typhoon floods of May 2008 gave some hope of an improvement in relations but it died as soon as the immediate crisis was over. Then the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, for taking in a crazy American who had swum to the house in which she is kept under arrest, appeared to be reasonably fair and she was allowed to talk to foreign diplomats -- but in the end the outcome disappointed as her release was postponed until after the next so-called elections take place later this year.

Now a report from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva paints a picture of “a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights as the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”. There is pressure from some quarters for an international commission of inquiry into Myanmar and this report will strengthen it. The US and EU have imposed limited sanctions on the regime but at the start of his presidency Barack Obama advocated a policy of diplomatic engagement rather than punitive measures. The evidence is that the Myanmar junta is oblivious to any external influence.