Bangkok: A craze sweeping highly superstitious Thailand where adults dress and pamper life-like infant-sized dolls has run into trouble.
One of the "Child Angel" dolls was found stuffed with 200 methamphetamine tablets at Chiang Mai airport in northern Thailand.
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Thais turn to 'child angel' dolls
RAW VISION: devotees in Thailand turn to life-like dolls believed to bring good luck, as the economy continues to struggle 20 months after a coup.
After a burst of publicity about the dolls that are believed to bring good luck, wealth and health, officials at the country's immigration border posts were ordered to be on the look-out for smugglers using them to traffic drugs.
"Criminals will have a new way to smuggle drugs," national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters.
And aviation authorities are reviewing procedures for carrying the dolls on aircraft after a Thai airline said it would allow passengers to purchase seats for the dolls so they could be buckled up next to their owners.
Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said the review would ensure the dolls meet security concerns after an increasing number of passengers refused to pack them in their luggage, insisting they bring them on board and even hold them in their laps as they flew.
Some passengers became angry and upset when flight attendants insisted they place the dolls in overheard compartments or under seats.
The craze took off late last year after several celebrities extolled their good fortune, including popular radio disc jockey Bookko Thannatchayapan, who said he was rewarded with a film role after he asked his doll called "Wansai" to bring him success in the entertainment industry.
Mr Bookko bought Wansai a gold necklace as a reward.
The factory-manufactured dolls called Luk Thep in the Thai language are treated like children because they have undergone "spiritualisation" by Buddhist monks, which is said to breathe life into them.
The Bangkok Post reported they are versions of the old Thai tradition of carrying fetishes that are believed to be inhabited by the soul of a child.
Thai media have reported seeing the dolls being wheeled around by their "parents" in prams and seated at restaurants.
Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways International, said in an internal memo that dolls with tickets could be served snacks and drinks at window seats but would be banned from sitting in exit rows.
A Bangkok restaurant is running a special for the dolls, offering to serve them at children's prices on condition all of the food is consumed, presumably by the owners.
Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, director-general of Thailand's Department of Mental Health, told The Nation news website that the popularity of the dolls reflected deep-seated superstition in Thai society and was little different from past trends when Thais were said to "raise" child ghosts.
Mr Jedsada said the doll owners do not have mental problems.
"We all need a mental refuge that we lack. Some people have some worries and they need something they can rely on," he said.
The dolls sell for the equivalent of between $78 and $790.
Police are investigating how the methamphetamine tablets came to be in the doll found in a black suitcase in a parking lot at Chiang Mai airport.