If you’re one of thousands of Luk Thep dolls in Thailand, you have it made. You’re pampered with designer clothes and accessories, taken to dinner, and even onto airplanes, where you can get your own seat.
Thanks to their popularity, a Thai airline has decided to let people buy tickets for these special, supernatural dolls, and flight attendants instructed to treat them like real children. That means they get snacks, drinks, and have to be buckled in during takeoff and landing, CNN reported.
Odd as it may seem, the fad is all the rage among women in Thailand right now. People who own one of these eerie, angel-faced toys treat them like real kids and believe they bring good fortune. Owners often post photos of themselves with their Luk Thep dolls and proof of the luck they’ve brought — like lottery winnings.
According to an opinion piece in the Bangkok Post, a monk named Phra Ajarn Vinai Thitapanyo blesses hundreds every day, sometimes six per person, at his temple. He spends up to 10 minutes with each “scrawling something on them that no-one understands.”
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) January 26, 2016
Owners believe that their Luk Thep is “infused with a child’s soul” during a spiritualization process (hence, the monk) that invites the spirit into the doll, United Press International reported. The better it’s treated, the more likely it is to bring good fortune. As a result, many are treated like living, breathing children.
If owners aren’t willing to shell out the extra cash for the Luk Thep doll to have its own seat, it’ll be stored as carry on. The Thai Smile airline is one of a few airlines, apparently, that now allow owners to purchase a ticket for their special companions. The decision was made two months after they noticed more and more people coming on board with them.
At least 40 passengers have recently brought Luk Thep dolls on their flight, most of them placing the rather large “children” either on their laps or on an empty seat next door. The airline became concerned that they would be tossed about during turbulence, risking other passengers’ safety.
“We treat the dolls like any other dolls,” said Patee Sarasin, CEO of low-cost airline Nok Air. “The customers can put (them) on their lap while flying. If they want to buy a seat, it is the most expensive price possible. Therefore, we do not encourage customers to buy seats for the dolls, but we cannot stop them from buying another seat if they wish to do so.”
— UPI.com (@UPI) January 26, 2016
— ThaiPBS English News (@ThaipbsEngNews) January 26, 2016
But the Luk Thep doll isn’t just used as a lucky charm — drug traffickers have already started taking advantage of their popularity to smuggle drugs. On Tuesday, one was found inside a black suitcase, filled with 200 tablets of a methamphetamine-based drug named yaba.
Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) is also worried that the new policy isn’t safe and they don’t want the dolls brought into the cabin at all. Some police are starting to instruct immigration checkpoints to look out for the Luk Thep dolls, whose sweet faces may be hiding serious contraband.
“How have we arrived at this point?” one local police chief asked to the Straits Times.
He’s not the only one confused by the trend. In the Post editorial, author Veera Prateepchaikul declared that the Luk Thep doll “makes Thai people appear like they have only half their brain functioning.” The trend was started last year by celebrities who, as Veera put it, “may be rich and look great physically but, mentally, they are more often like infants themselves.” Those posted pictures of themselves with their special companions, and the rest is history.
But the fad may have roots in ancient tradition. The Luk Thep doll is like an ancient household divinity called Kuman Thong — a child figure containing the remains of an unborn fetus. These “child ghosts” may have just been upgraded to the “digital age,” said the country’s Mental Health Department director, Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk
“We all need a mental refuge that we lack. Some people have some worries and they need something that they can rely on.”
[Photo via YouTube]