If some power-hungry generals were looking for a place to set up a dictatorship with minimal interference from the outside world they would go a long way to find a more amenable place than Myanmar. It has a low profile because it is not strategically placed and has few resources. Giant neighbours China and India tend to mind their own business. This helps to explain the longevity of the junta that has ruled Myanmar for decades. Now, however, the generals are entertaining a potentially troublesome visitor - United Nations under secretary-general for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari. His mission includes a request to see detained political leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He is not expected to succeed where envoys before him have failed. But, unlike them, he may be able to make the generals pay for their contempt for international opinion, driven by fear of the threat she represents to their grip on power. The issue of Myanmar and its human-rights abuses is close to being listed on the agenda of the UN Security Council for the first time. Mr Gambari's visit could push it over the line. The result could be significantly increased pressure on the junta. That Mr Gambari received a visa to visit Myanmar at all is a sign that they are feeling the heat. The UN special representative to Myanmar quit in January because he had not been allowed into the place for nearly two years. In a recent report to the UN Security Council on Myanmar, Mr Gambari told of overflowing jails with more than 1,100 political prisoners, forced labour, poverty, disease, poor health care and inadequate food security. The United States has rightly declared the council's involvement as essential to putting Myanmar on the path to democracy and economic recovery. Close observers say the junta is alarmed at the prospect of being placed on the security council agenda and that its decision to receive Mr Gambari is damage control. Blocking access to Ms Suu Kyi would send the wrong signal and could derail that strategy. In the past, countries including China, Japan and Russia have been reluctant to put Myanmar on the council agenda. They say that whatever its shortcomings, the regime does not threaten international peace and security, although rampant drug trafficking in border areas, a brutal military campaign against Karen rebels and the flight of 140,000 refugees into Thailand do not do much for either. The generals should weigh their political support carefully. China is flexing its muscles in dispute resolution. If the junta is to head off security council listing, it may be obliged to show some real progress towards meeting international concerns. The generals remain afraid of a woman they have persecuted since they refused to hand over power after her National League for Democracy won an election in 1990. Myanmar needs leaders with her courage and more support from the UN if its people are to have a better life.