By NIPHAWAN KAEWRAKMUK,
‘CHILD angels” – the baby dolls that many people have been carrying in public in a recent fad – have become a serious issue for the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) after an airline agreed to allow passengers to buy tickets on behalf of their dolls.
As the CAAT focuses on potential ramifications for aviation safety, police have sought separately to address alleged criminal acts connected to doll owners.
In Bangkok and nearby provinces, Economic Crime officers yesterday raided several shops that were allegedly evading tax when selling the popular dolls.
And in Chiang Mai in the North, police said drugs were discovered in a doll at the international airport.
The trend of carrying child-angel dolls has attracted a lot of attention from the public as well as authorities after Thai Smile Airways recently started allowing passengers to book seats for the dolls.
Chula Sukmanop, CAAT acting director and head of the Department of Airports, said yesterday he had called a meeting of relevant agencies to review safety guideline related to the dolls. “There have been no child-angel cases overseas,” Chula said. “So, we have to prepare guidelines in line with international standards.”
Chula said he would raise relevant issues today with representatives of up to eight airlines.
“For example, child angels must be subject to X-ray checks like carry-on luggage,” he said.
Even if the dolls are issued airline tickets, he said they could not be scanned like real passengers, who are subject to scans that can only detect metal, unlike the more comprehensive inspections enabled by X-ray machines.
Chula said he needed to make this point clear to airline executives so they can provide proper instructions to their crews and other employees. “We will also need to discuss the fact that aircraft seats are not designed for dolls,” he said.
According to documents circulated on social media, Thai Smile Airways has advised its crew to only assign window seats to the dolls and to make sure they were strapped in with safety belts.
Chula said he did not think passengers would be allowed to hold the dolls in their arms during landing and takeoff due to safety standards. He said the dolls should be stored in overhead baggage compartments or under seats.
Aside from safety, Chula said he also planned to discuss the delivery of services to the dolls during a flight. Thai Smile Airways has served food and beverages to the dolls if passengers booked a separate ticket.
“I think it will be best for airlines to act in the same direction, or else some of them may have problems with passengers,” Chula said.
Meanwhile, police announced in Chiang Mai that they had found 200 methamphetamine tablets hidden inside a doll with a girl’s likeness that had been left at the Chiang Mai International Airport.
The doll, which is 30 centimetres tall, was inside a black bag when police found it in the airport’s parking lot on Monday morning.
Police had been on alert at the airport after they received a tip-off that drug dealers planned to smuggle drugs in a doll. However, after the black bag was found on Monday, no one showed up to claim it.
“So, we decided to check the bag in the evening. Inside, we really did find the doll and the illicit drugs,” Provincial Police Region 5 deputy commissioner Pol Maj-General Prayat Boonsri said.
It was the first time police had found drugs inside a child-angel doll. “Drug dealers probably wanted to exploit the child-angel trend,” he said.
In Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, Pol Colonel Kriangsak Kallayawattanacharoen, superintendent at the Economic Crime Suppression Division, said several shop owners selling the dolls for Bt500 to Bt5,000 were facing charges of avoiding import duties.
If convicted, offenders may face up to five years in jail or a fine equivalent to four times the smuggled items.
Police also seized more than 100 “child angel” dolls on suspicion that they might have been smuggled in.
“We have confiscated them as the shop owners are still unable to produce duty-payment documents,” Kriangsak said.