Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pa Cha

Crematorium at Wat Ounalom, next to Phsar Kandal off of Street 154, now gone.

Cambodian Buddhist tradition is to cremate the dead. Major Buddhist pagodas in Cambodia often have a traditional crematorium (pa cha) on the grounds. Over the last year most of Phnom Penh's crematoria were shuttered and demolished. After many years of planning, the city implemented the closure of the crematoria within the city, citing air quality and traffic control reasons. (See 'Municipality prepares to move cremations outside the capital.') As the city has developed and filled in, many of these crematoria were within a few tens of meters of restaurants, schools, businesses and the like where wisps of smoke drifting by were less than welcome. The crematorium pictured above sat at the back of the Wat Ounalom pagoda grounds and was something of a minor landmark, overlooking the market intersection of Street 13 and Street 154. It was demolished earlier this year, now an empty lot within the pagoda grounds. For most of its existence it sat opposite the site of the old French prison T3, which was demolished several years ago.


  1. And gone with them is the source of many tasteless jokes about barbeques. More seriously, the staff of the crematoria were a special cloass of monastery servant - or maybe not servants at all - who will now be unemployed. Perhaps you could investigate this for us? I really am very hazy about the details, but was told about this way back when the closures were first announced.

  2. Very interesting thought. I also noticed that other related businesses - the hearses and the coffin maker next door have moved away. I will try to learn more about the people who tend the crematorium within a pagoda and report back.