Winning back its General Assembly seat at the United Nations will help to underpin Cambodia's fragile coalition government. Now that the leadership is picking up the pieces 17 months after Hun Sen's bloody coup, it may prove a vital step in the country's long and uncertain journey towards economic recovery and political stability. Relations between the country and the international body have been far from cordial following UN criticism of Cambodia's human rights record in the summer, but the Government in Phnom Penh desperately needs UN endorsement. Apart from setting the seal on its legitimacy, the move will encourage other international organisations to reopen channels of communication, and perhaps even to restore frozen loans. But it is still far too soon to assume that this latest coalition will be any more successful than the last. Hun Sen may indeed have become a convert to democracy in the past year: as prime minister, he has got what he wanted, so he can afford to be generous. It could also suit him to conform to international norms in order to facilitate donations from the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is strongly against Cambodia's bid for membership of ASEAN, but his misgivings about human rights abuses, environmental destruction and rampant corruption are not likely to weigh very heavily with an organisation which welcomed Burma into its ranks. It was ASEAN members who pushed Hun Sen towards the election, which was subsequently judged 'free and fair' - if only by Cambodian standards. So it is unlikely that Phnom Penh's application will now be rejected. All the necessary institutions are in place. The country finally has a constitution and, if ASEAN membership can help rebuild the economy and encourage greater stability, there is not much reason for keeping Cambodia out. Membership could be a lever to make Hun Sen keep his promise to allocate seats in the Senate equally between his Cambodian People's Party and Prince Norodom Ranariddh's Funcinpec. He should be pressured into doing that before the summit is held later this month. After that, the prospects for progress are multiple. Funcinpec forces are reintegrated into government ranks; the remnants of the Khmer Rouge have surrendered. If the parties can unite to work together on the economy, this might just turn out to be more than another false dawn.