Thai authorities put to flight notion of 'living child angels'

A Child Angel doll being groomed in Nonthaburi, Thailand, on Jan 26, 2016.
A Child Angel doll being groomed in Nonthaburi, Thailand, on Jan 26, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Thailand's air safety body yesterday warned passengers 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) was in response to the latest superstitious craze sweeping the kingdom, which has seen Thais pampering life-like dolls that are believed to contain the spirit of a real child, hoping it will bring them good luck.

Known in Thai as "luuk thep" (child angels), the dolls, which can cost up to US$600 (S$867) each, were first popularised by celebrities who claimed that dressing up and feeding the dolls had brought them professional success.

This week, local media ran reports based on a leaked memo from Thai Smile suggesting that the carrier planned to begin offering airline tickets - including in-flight food - to the dolls.

The memo defined the "child angel" as "a doll that is alive", adding that such dolls should be placed in window seats so as not to disturb other passengers, and that they should wear seatbelts 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 neither denied the memo nor made any statement.

Superstition runs deep in Thailand, with many fervently believing in ghosts, good and malevolent spirits and that offerings of various kinds will ward off bad luck.

But Thailand's police chief has warned that the fad is going too far.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Thai authorities put to flight notion of 'living child angels''. Print Edition | Subscribe