Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
Chapter 27: International medical travel developments within Thailand and Southeast Asia
Many countries worldwide are now using biomedicine as a domestically-based export commodity in order to increase future opportunities for their national economies. Most of the research conducted on this phenomenon known as ‘medical tourism’ mostly focuses on Western patient-consumers covering long distances to get medical treatment in emerging countries such as India, Malaysia and Thailand in Asia. However, many medical tourism destinations equally involve cross-border intra-regional medical travel originating from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, and Lao PDR in the case of Thailand. This chapter investigates the development of International Medical Travels (IMTs) towards Thailand both at transnational and cross-border levels with a focus on Laotian patients. International medical travel flows emerge and exist based on specific contexts and unique material and geographical conditions. This requires studying the broader political, social and economic contexts shaping healthcare and leading to the promotion of places as healthcare destinations. Based on original relevant paradigms as ‘transnational assemblage’ (Wilson, 2010) and ‘national therapeutic landscapes’ (Ormond, 2013), the chapter outlines the genealogy of Thai healthcare and the changing political and economic environment during the twentieth century which provided Thailand with the conditions to attract a large number of foreign patients from different backgrounds.
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