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Seeking health across the border

More and more people travel across international borders for the purpose of receiving medical care. Medical tourism, as this growing phenomenon is commonly called, features prominently in Southeast Asia, with Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore among the top world destinations thanks to relatively lower costs of care, cutting-edge equipment and expertise, and visitors’ friendly attitude.  At the receiving end of services, Indonesia is one of the major sending countries for outbound medical tourism as many Indonesians travel to Malaysia or Singapore in search of better care. In a context of increasing globalisation and privatization of health care, the combination of demographic and epidemiological changes with higher spending capacity and greater demand for higher quality services fuel medical tourism.

This all makes of cross-border health care, including medical tourism, a priority business sector for the ASEAN Economic Community. Efforts are underway to facilitate cross-border investments in health facilities among ASEAN countries and to stimulate travel for medical purposes. While governments and the private sector highlights the economic gains and contribution to economic growth, the impacts on health systems and public health are not clear, and there are concerns that medical tourism may result in “a two-tier system, with deluxe priority care for the better-off (including ‘medical tourists’) and a rump, underfunded public sector for the rest” (Ormond 2014).

The panel discussion to be held at SEA Junction on 24 June at 5PM will be moderated by economist and President of the Thai Foundation Mingsan Khaosa-ard and will include the following speakers and proposed topics:

  • Jiruth Sriratanaban, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University: “Medical tourism in Southeast Asia“
  • Chee Khoon Chan, Visiting Scholar, Faculty of Education
  • University of Malaya: “Ambiguities in the Malaysian medical tourism industry“
  • Rebecca Farber, PhD candidate, Faculty of Sociology, Boston University: “Gendered cross-border care in Thailand“

This is the second of a series of events on movements of people in Southeast Asia entitled ASEAN People in Flux that is organized by SEA Junction in collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Southeast Asia. The series, consisting of seven interrelated events, aims to examine the complexity of intraregional mobility spurred by regionalization efforts and to discuss the policies governing it. In particular, by putting a spot on different kinds of people’s movements, the series highlights the double standards in ASEAN approach. On one side, ASEAN promotes “people to people connectivity” by facilitating movements for business, study and tourism, while on the other side it limits migration of much needed “un-skilled” workers to exploitative contract labor schemes and it refuses to recognize refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.

The event is further part of the two day-celebration of SEA Junction’s first anniversary on 24-25 June. Besides this panel, the anniversary celebration include a book launching; a bazaar with sale of books, glass paintings, photos, crafts and other goods donated to SEA Junction for fund raising; and a reflection meeting for the founding partners, contributors and volunteers. 



SEA Junction, OUR Venue to Connect on Southeast Asia (see SEA Junction aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions –from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium) SEA junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information see and join the Facebook group

Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia ( is the regional office of the German Green Political Party Foundation and conducts and supports civic educational activities in Southeast Asia


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