Superstition suspected in attempt to smuggle stolen body parts out of Thailand

Police now suspect that superstition might be behind two Americans' recent attempts to smuggle stolen human body parts out of Thailand - including a skin patch tattooed with spiritual lettering.

"These tattoos are different from those familiar to the Western world. Such Thai tattoos are said to have magical powers," Pol Maj-General Sombat Milintachinda of Metropolitan Police said yesterday.

Ryan McPherson and Daniel Tanner are wanted for allegedly stealing the specimens from a state medical museum.

This is not the first time body parts have disappeared from a medical institute. Back in 2003, two Thais were caught at a flea market peddling human body parts that they had pilfered from Siriraj Hospital. The suspects confessed that the items could be used in cult rituals.

"People from across the world have expressed interest in using Thai amulets," said Wanchai Pongsompetch, who is a veteran in the market for the traditional objects.

Customers came from various places including Europe and the United States.

Superstitious beliefs still prevail in Thailand.

Last year, Chow Hok Kuen was arrested at a hotel in Bangkok for carrying six foetuses.

The 28-year-old man told police that he did it on the order of another Taiwanese man who wished to turn unborn foetuses into good-luck charms.