Luk Thep dolls are believed to have the spirit of a child and are therefore worshipped and treated like one.
The “supernatural dolls” called Luk Thep have gained a lot of popularity in Thailand recently. The Swang Arom temple, a temple situated in the outer western suburbs of Bangkok, has been known for its collection of “kuman” – which are plastic child-dolls adorning historic costumes. They usually clutch a bag of gold, and are believed to carry the spirit of an unborn fetus. Temple visitors pray to these dolls, lighting incense sticks and kneeling before them.
People of Thailand are a superstitious folk, just like other nations in the Southeast Asian region. The latest superstitious “craze” is the Luk Thep dolls. Indeed, the doll collection in the temple has grown because of visitors quietly leaving their child angels. They are even served red fizzy drinks that believers claim they prefer.
Phra Prasit Warayan, one of the monks in the temple, says that people worship the dolls when things go well, but abandon them when things take a turn for the worse “Because they are afraid of what might happen, they leave them here, because they know we accept them, and the abbot is always careful to put them in an appropriate place.”
One such dedicated owner is Mananya Boonmi. She applies nail varnish and nose studs on her doll and weaves human hair on her plastic scalp. She sees the dolls as living beings “who will reward their owners with good fortune – as long as they are looked after as if it is a human child.” She believes that she is one of the earliest individuals who began believing in the Luk Thep dolls. She claims that her personal business flourished when she began to care for the doll like a human child. She also says that the dolls make her happy.
The Luk Thep doll craze began to gain traction when some Thai celebrities started to carry their dolls everywhere, including restaurants and airplanes. They treated them as almost human and desired to buy plane seats for them. It has been a trending practice that people of Thailand have embraced, and it is not uncommon to board a flight and realize you are seated next to a doll.
#luk thep what and wgy the doll so popular among Thailand?
— Kiyoshi (@japan_atoz) February 1, 2016
Generally, you don’t expect passengers to buy a seat for their dolls, but it’s happening in Thailand. But why?
The Luk Thep, or popularly referred to as “supernatural doll” is not just an ordinary doll. Because it is believed to possess a child’s spirit, and Thais trust that Luk Thep brings luck to them. On airlines, these “supernatural dolls” have become very fashionable, and the Thais have expressed their willingness to pay for an extra seat for their Luk Thep dolls.
It was evidenced by the move made by the Thai Smile Airways regional carriers to instruct their staff to allow passengers purchase a seat for their ‘child angel’ dolls. Sources revealed that an internal Thai Smile memo that is being shared to the Thai Media indicated that the Luk Thep will be treated like real children on board.
Meaning that the doll will be fully equipped and prepared just like a real passenger and also, they will also be served snacks and drinks. They will also not be allowed to sit in the exit rows as it applies to children on board. But what happens if you don’t have the cash to purchase for your doll’s ticket? It will just be regarded as one of your carry-on luggage during the flight.
The airlines have also taken into account security regulations issues. According to Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation, there have been successful discussions on how to ensure the safety of passengers who use various airlines. Police have intercepted a Luk Thep packed inside a black suitcase that was carrying drugs of about 200 tablets of yaba, a pill containing caffeine and methamphetamine.
In an interview with CNN, Petee Sarasin the SEO of Nok Air said that "We treat the dolls like any other dolls, and the customers can put the dolls 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 purchase seats for the dolls, but we cannot stop them from buying another seat if they wish to do so."
There are reasons why Luk Thep are regarded as spiritual. Despite being imported from the U.S., the Luk Thep usually undergoes a ritual according to the Thailand traditions so as to implant them in a child’s soul. Thai celebrities widely used them and they had gained popularity at the time when local celebrities started sharing their experiences on the internet about what they encountered when using “supernatural dolls.”