BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's air safety body warned passengers on Wednesday (Jan 27) that lucky "child angel" dolls cannot be considered real people and must be properly stowed before take-off and landing.
The unusual clarification from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) came in response to the latest superstitious craze sweeping the kingdom, where Thais are pampering lifelike dolls that are believed to contain the spirit of a real child hoping it will bring them good luck.
Known in Thai as "luk thep" (child angels), the pricey dolls, which can cost up to US$600 (S$856.25), were first popularised by celebrities who claimed dressing up and feeding the dolls had brought them professional success.
This week multiple local media outlets ran reports based around a leaked memo from Thai Smile suggesting the airline planned to begin offering airline tickets - including in-flight drinks and snacks - to the dolls.
The memo defined the "child angels" as "a doll that is alive", adding that the figures should be placed in window seats so as not to disturb other passengers and that seatbelts should be worn during take-off and landing, according to reports.
But in its statement, the CAAT said child angel dolls were "non-human beings that cannot be considered passengers".
"Carry on baggage must be stored inside overhead lockers or underneath the seat," it said.
Thai Smile has not denied the leaked memo, but it has not made any formal statement either.
More than 90 per cent of Thais identify themselves as Buddhist. But the country's Buddhism is known for its syncretism, comfortably blending many animist and Hindu traditions into daily worship.
Superstition runs deep with many fervently believing in ghosts, good and malevolent spirits and that offerings of various kinds will ward off bad luck.
The recent doll-mania, which began a little over a year ago, has seen adults bringing figures to Buddhist ceremonies, restaurants and the cinema.
That has irked some officials with Thailand's police chief warning this week that the fad was going too far.
On Tuesday, officers in Bangkok confiscated more than 100 dolls and arrested three vendors for allegedly failing to pay import taxes.
Thai anthropologist Visisya Pinthongvijayakul told AFP that the practice has roots in the ancient occult worship of preserved foetuses thought to contain a child's spirit.