Thailand is in general a well known and popular tourist destination, where people like to visit for the purpose of exploring the Thai culture, tasting the local cuisine, playing golf and relaxing on the beautiful white sandy beaches, however many people also visit Thailand for other purposes, such as healthcare. You’re probably asking yourself: why would anyone travel to another country for treatment? Isn’t it too expensive?
Well, if you have been following the healthcare trends over the past years, you have probably heard of the impact Thailand had on the medical tourism sector. Each year, there are more tourists visiting and temporary relocating to Thailand, solely for the purpose of healthcare services, and you are probably wondering, why?
The answer is quite simple; affordability. Thailand’s healthcare systems and well trained personnel provide a high quality care for a fraction of the price the medical tourists would normally pay in their home countries. This is especially true for the private healthcare systems
Additionally, the public healthcare systems are generally affordable and sometimes free, but on the other hand, they do normally have long waiting lists. Sometimes people do not wish to wait long time for their procedure and simply can’t afford the private treatment, which forces them to turn to another country’s healthcare system in order to get a quick, quality treatment at a reasonable price. This is where Thailand gets the opportunity to shine, as the country’s doctors are well trained in the latest medical procedures and equipped with the modern technological devices. The language barrier is also not an issue anymore, since the medical personnel have good understanding of English language.
Moreover, Thailand is also on the verge of becoming the first country in Asia, to legalize the medical cannabis. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization, which is a branch of Ministry of Public Health, is hoping for approval from the military government to study cannabis further for medical purposes and considers its medicinal value.
In the 1980s, Thailand was among world’s top exporters of cannabis and the herb was traditionally used to treat distress, nausea and pain, while farmers grew it to relax. Furthermore, Thailand has already conducted its own studies and confirmed that cannabis has medicinal values beneficial for the treatment of nausea and loss of appetite for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, epilepsy in children and multiple sclerosis, according to the local media Khaosod. At this point in time, cannabis is still highly illegal for both medicinal and recreational purposes, and anyone caught in possession could face high fines and jail time for up to 15 years.
On the positive note, the cabinet of minister under the military government approved the proposal to change the laws, so the cannabis could be tested on human subjects to further asses its use for medicinal purposes. According to the latest news, Thailand could see the legalization of cannabis by the end of 2018, and beginning of 2019. Once the law has fully passed, Thailand will be the first Asian country to join the 12.9 Billion dollar market, currently led by U.S and Canada. Thailand has the huge advantage due to its tropical climate suitable for growing cannabis, which lowers the need for using artificial lights and temperature control devices. In order words, it will be more cost effective to grow the higher quality cannabis, giving Thailand the opportunity to become the industry leader. According to Dr. Nopporn Cheanklin, executive managing director of the GPO:
“The best strains of cannabis in the world 20 years ago were from Thailand, and now Canada has developed this strain until up to this day, we can’t claim that ours is the best in the world anymore.
“That’s why we must develop our strain to be able to compete with theirs.”
What could this change mean for Thailand? Legalizing medical cannabis would allow Thai population to use cannabis for treatment, but it could also attract a high number of foreigners suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses, that would be in favor of using cannabis, but are not allowed to do so in their home country due to the illegal status cannabis has. Therefore, the medical tourism could see an exponential growth and higher demand for accommodation and other tourism related services, which could also create more employment and business opportunities.