Razali Ismail, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, is a devoted practitioner of quiet diplomacy. His subtle prodding was widely credited with persuading Burma's military junta to free, in May last year, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. So it was a surprise when, in late April, the Malaysian diplomat told reporters in Bangkok he was "perplexed and disappointed" with the generals' refusal to grant him a visa for the past six months so that he could try to foster dialogue between the two sides: "I really cannot understand why I'm being denied access." Apparently the change in tactics was effective. Junta spokesman Colonel Hla Min announced last week that the U.N. envoy would be allowed back into Burma for four days beginning June 6. Several analysts said the generals may have relented because of hints the European Union and the U.S. were considering broadening economic sanctions against the regime. Burma's banking system is already near collapse, prices for rice and other essentials are spiraling higher and government harassment of the opposition is on the increase. But as a diplomat in Rangoon conceded, the generals have so little contact with outsiders that "none of us really know the reasons behind the decisions." Few in Rangoon expect, however, that Razali's visit will move the long-promised reform process forward. Even in a miserable economic climate, the junta is buying time.