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Nation Revels in Temple's 'Heritage' Status

Cambodians celebrated across the country Tuesday, following the inclusion of Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Public officials joined residents in impromptu celebrations in Phnom Penh. Monks in pagodas rang bells, as people went into the streets, shouting, clapping, singing and dancing to drums.

Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a statement congratulating Cambodia on the inscription, especially noting efforts of diplomats and the negotiating team.

The protection of the temple, which sits on a disputed border region, required years of brokering with Thailand.

Unesco's World Heritage Committee Announced late Monday the inclusion of the temple on the protection list. The temple joined another 15 sites around the world that were inscribed during meetings of the committee in Canada.

An official who attended those meetings said Thailand had objected to the inclusion of the temple, but the decision was impossible to reverse.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong declared the result at a press conference Tuesday.

The registration of the temple as a World Heritage was not a loss of territory, "even one centimeter," to Thailand or Cambodia, he said.

Phnom Penh city officials planned a concert and fireworks display at Wat Phnom Tuesday night.

Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep called the inscription a "big success" for the ruling party.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said the World Heritage listing was not a surprise, as the temple belonged to Cambodia, but he worried the agreement had cost Cambodia territory and could lead to future losses in border negotiations.

The celebrations followed weeks of increased tension between Cambodia and Thailand, as Thai opposition crowds protested in Bangkok and at the border, claiming an agreement to allow Cambodia to apply for Heritage status amounted to a cessation of land.

Officials said Tuesday the gate to Preah Vinhear temple remained closed on the Thai side, and Cambodian riot police remained on guard in front of the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.