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'Heritage' Temple Gets Unesco Flag, Sign

PHOTO SLIDESHOW, courtesy of AP Images, click here.

A team of Unesco and government officials inaugurated Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site Friday, as Thai and Cambodian troops who have been entrenched in the area were withdrawn.

It was unclear whether the withdrawal from the positions near the 11th-Century temple would be permanent.

The official ceremony included the raising of a Unesco World Heritage sign above the temple entrance and the hoisting of three flags, for Cambodia, Unesco and the World Heritage committee, over its spires.

“Today is a historic day for the Khmer people, and the raising of the flags shows that the boundaries of Preah Vihear temple belong to the world heritage,” said Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “The other side cannot damage Preah Vihear temple, and we the Khmer people should protect and guard [it].”

The July 7 inclusion of the temple on the World Heritage protection list at Cambodia’s behest sparked outrage among a number of Thais and led to the deployment of thousands of troops on both sides in an expanding border dispute.

At least three Cambodian and one Thai soldier were killed in violent clashes near the temple last month.

Another round of negotiations between both sides is expected in Siem Reap Monday.