By SUCHAT SRITAMA
THAI AUTHORITIES have announced a set of guidelines for all airlines and airports regarding the treatment of the controversial Luk Theps or superstitious “child angel” dolls, based on international safety and security rules.
Chula Sukmanop, director-general at the Airport Department, said the guidelines are aimed at ensuring safety and security for all passengers. All airlines and airports will be required to immediately follow these rules. This follows recent uproar over the carrying of Luk Theps aboard a domestic Thai airline.
Luk Theps are dolls that undergo sacred rituals, and are believed to be “child angels”.
These dolls have raised concerns about aviation safety as passengers are allowed to buy tickets for the dolls and carry them onboard.
Following consultations with representatives of 9 airlines and airports, including the six major airports operated by Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT), the authorities have issued guidelines:
The so-called child angels must be declared by owners as luggage or belongings of travelling passengers so they can buy tickets for extra seats at a regular price for the dolls, similar to extra seats for valuable belongings such as guitars and other musical instruments or expensive handbags.
Once the passengers and their dolls are on board, the dolls must be stored in the overhead locker or under the passenger’s seat while the plane prepares for take-off and landing.
However, passengers may negotiate with aircrew whether to carry or store the dolls elsewhere but this must not violate international safety standards based on Article 69.
Airport personnel are authorised to inspect the dolls as weapons, flammable and other dangerous objects, which are prohibited on board, could be hidden. If passengers refuse to allow an inspection, they will not be allowed to board the plane.
According to Chula, passengers can still buy extra tickets for their dolls and bring them on board as long as they follow these safety rules.
In the event that these dolls have some seeds or pieces of meat or other stuffs, which may be problematic upon landing in some foreign countries, he said passengers who carry the dolls and related stuffs would be held responsible.
A representative of Bangkok Airways was worried that a large number of transit international passengers may need some advice about this issue, while a senior executive of Nok Air said some passengers had carried dolls onboard without facing any problem.
Pratana Patanasiri, the vice president for safety, security and standard at Thai Airways International (THAI), said the airline has been following international safety and security standards and passengers are allowed to buy extra seats if they want to.
Woranate Laprabang, chief executive officer of Thai Smile Airways, the sister airline of THAI, said it follows all safety standards. Earlier, Thai Smile had circulated an internal letter on how to treat these child angels, saying it was the first airline to allow passengers to buy tickets specifically for these superstitious dolls.
Meanwhile, a resort in Sakon Nakhon province yesterday issued a statement that it would not allow customers with these dolls to stay so as to avoid disturbing other guests.
Pol General Dejnarong Suthichan, chief spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, said dolls are not a problem but authorities need to stay vigilant as narcotics and other illegal stuffs could be hidden inside the dolls. About 200 yaba pills were found in a “child angel” doll at Chiang Mai airport on Tuesday.
At this stage, there is no additional instruction for police as far as this issue is concerned, he said, adding the child angel dolls are currently popular among believers but it is likely that it is a passing fad.
“We will not get involved with individuals’ beliefs. The possession of the dolls is a basic right of the people but authorities are empowered to investigate if there were illegal stuffs hidden,” he said.
PM’s Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said the National Office of Buddhism is investigating a ritual performed by a monk at a Buddhist temple in Nonthaburi province, which reportedly consecrated a doll as a child angel.