The political reforms to which the release from house arrest a year ago of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pointed are no closer. The Nobel Peace Prize winner can move freely about the country, but the people of Myanmar are no nearer to having the freedom to choose their leaders. More than 2? years of United Nations mediation aimed at ushering in democracy has not lessened the military's grip on power. The junta and Ms Suu Kyi are not talking and 1,100 members of her National League for Democracy remain in prison. The political party won elections in 1990, but the military refused to let it govern. Its members and those of other opposition groups have since been subjected to intimidation, imprisonment, house arrest and torture. Ms Suu Kyi has endured through diplomacy and tact. On April 23, though, she expressed her frustration at the lack of progress to diplomats and journalists in Yangon. The military responded in the way it always has to criticism made under the glare of the international spotlight - by releasing a batch of political prisoners and in subsequent days quietly rounding up almost as many. Myanmar's people have been denied democracy, but they are also suffering through the junta's misrule. Poverty, already rife, is rising; the economy is in tatters, as evidenced by the recent collapse of the banking system; rates of HIV/Aids and malaria, already at levels among the highest in Asia, are worsening. Regional and international security is threatened from a flood of drugs. In an effort to hasten change, the European Union and the United States have imposed economic sanctions and are being pressured to harden the measures. The impact is limited because of a refusal by Myanmar's neighbours to participate. The junta's leader, Than Shwe, has thumbed his nose at the criticism. Three months ago he promoted loyal supporter Soe Win to the third most senior position in the regime, two weeks after he had declared it had no plans to talk to the National League for Democracy. General Than Shwe is trying to buy time to stave off the international community, which is losing patience. Last week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Myanmar's rulers were despotic and it would be a difficult task to 'crack' their will. Ms Suu Kyi marked the anniversary of her release yesterday by using her freedom to travel to visit supporters in the country's north. Any other freedoms for her and Myanmar's people rest with the international community. Through a more united approach and tougher economic and diplomatic measures, the world can force change.