Luk Thep dolls, the lifelike toys believed by some in Thailand to have the spirit of live children, can have their own seats if they have a separate ticket, says a Thai regional airline.
But the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand says not so fast, and issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the Luk Thep dolls, or "child angels" in English, should be properly stowed before take-off and landing and "cannot be considered real people," according to Agence France-Presse
The statement came after media reports that Thai Smile Airways would start offering airline tickets, in-flight drinks and snacks to the dolls, according to a leaked memo.
The dolls, which have been promoted by Thai celebrities, can cost as much as $600 and some believe they contain the spirit of real children and can bring them good luck, said AFP.
Nattasuda Taephant, director of psychological wellness at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, told the Voice of America
that the dolls could help owners feel better, but their popularity is a fad.
"But if (owner's feeling about the doll) crosses the boundary of reality and they believe they can talk to the luk thep doll that would be something concerning in terms of mental health," said Taephant.
The Thai Smile memo reportedly described the doll as if alive and said it should be given window seats so it would not disturb other passengers while placing seatbelts on it during take-off and landing.
But the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand warned that the dolls should not be treated as humans, but luggage, said AFP
"Carry-on baggage must be stored inside overhead lockers or underneath the seat," the authority's statement said.
Voice of America said mental health officials believe the attachments to the dolls are tied to ancient Southeast Asian superstitions.
"Luk thep dolls are a clever blend of superstition and the digital era," said Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, the director general of the mental health department in Thailand.
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