Luk Thep dolls
A creepy new trend in Thailand sees strange child-like dolls being given their own seats on planes -and even snacks to eat.
According to some reports, ‘Child Angels’ are part of a new superstitious craze among many Thai people – which involves carrying, talking and caring for life-like dolls as if they are real children.
The dolls, called ‘Look Thep’ in Thai, are believed to hold children’s spirits and bring good luck to those who care for them – as well as wealth, blessings and protection from harm.
The pricey dolls which cost up , were first popularised by celebrities who claimed dressing up and feeding the figurines had brought them professional success.
As reported by CNN, Doll-mania has since swept up the superstitious, with adults bringing the figures to Buddhist ceremonies, restaurants and even on planes, where they reportedly have been issued seats and served mid-flight refreshments.
But after Thailand’s police chief warned this week the fad was going too far, officers on Tuesday confiscated more than 100 dolls and arrested three vendors in Bangkok for allegedly failing to pay import taxes.
“Mostly they imported [the dolls] from China,” Pol Col Kriangsak Kanrayawattanajaroen, deputy commander of the Economic Crime Suppression Bureau, told AFP.
He added that the vendors had avoided paying more than 100,000 baht.
The bust followed reports this week that Thai Smile airline was offering ticketed seats and meals to the dolls, accommodating owners who did not want to stow them as carry-on luggage.
Thai media published a leaked airline memo that defined the “child angels” as “a doll that is alive”.
The memo said the dolls should be placed in window seats so as not to disturb other passengers and that seatbelts should be worn during takeoff and landing, according to reports.
Thai Smile declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Anthropologist Visisya Pinthongvijayakul told AFP that while the angel doll trend only started last year, the practice has roots in the ancient occult worship of preserved foetuses thought to contain a child’s spirit.
More than 90% of Thais identify as Buddhist. But the country’s Buddhism is known for its syncretism, comfortably blending many animist and Hindu traditions into daily worship.
Mr Visisya said he has seen many shopkeepers and vendors buy the new angel dolls in hopes the talismans will boost sales during currently bleak times for the stuttering economy and ongoing political instability.
“From the perspective of Thais this is a very uncertain time,” said Mr Visisya, citing the plunging price of rubber and the ruling military junta’s lid on dissent.
“I think this is a practice that reflects an unstable and critical moment in Thai society.”
A Bangkok buffet restaurant is also running a special for the dolls.
“In the past month, more than 30 customers have brought their Luk Thep to eat at Neta Grill,” the restaurant said on its Facebook page Sunday. “Neta Grill is open to all worshipers and we’re glad to serve Luk Thep at children’s prices on the condition that all of the food ordered is consumed.”