Areas of Work
Border Health and Migrant Program
Non-Thai migrant populations
3.1million non-Thai migrant are living in Thailand,
mostly from the Mekong countries, but less
than half of these are registered according to the latest data from the
Ministry of Labor (1). Migrants work
predominantly in low-skill occupations in agriculture, fishing, and
factories; however, studies have confirmed that migrants are needed for the
long-term economic development of Thailand and account for 5% of the labor
force within Thailand. Additionally,
it is estimated that migrant workers contribute about 6.2% of the GDP of
Photo: Human Rights watch
Currently, access to health services for most migrants is
linked to a complex process of registering,
obtaining a work permit, and purchasing an insurance package under
what is known as the Compulsory Migrant Health Insurance Scheme (CMHIS). As of March 2012, approximately 1.35million
migrants (3) are eligible to access CMHIS, but not all migrants take
advantage of this option. A smaller
number of migrants are eligible for care through the Social Security System;
the remainder must pay out of pocket or seek alternative sources of health
Data on the health status, health-care seeking behavior,
and access to health services among non-Thai migrants (and their accompanying
families) is limited, especially for unregistered migrants. A 2010 comprehensive review of research
gaps concerning the health of migrants in Thailand conducted by Mahidol University and sponsored by WHO, outlined the
major data deficits and challenges in understanding the health problems of
The sparse epidemiologic data for migrants that is
available indicates that the health concerns of this comparatively young
population are primarily communicable diseases (5). However, direct comparisons to the local
Thai community are problematic due to the lack of migrant health data and
major differences in age-sex structures and socio-economic profiles between
Thai and non-Thai populations.
Nevertheless, given the close interactions of these populations, the
health security of both the communities is clearly linked.
WHO has long been involved in addressing the issues of
migrant and border health from a practical and policy perspective (6). WHO’s approach to tackling these
complex challenges seeks to account for linkages among governance, service
delivery, information, financing, medicines, and human resources in the
health system. In recognition of the
need for comprehensive, reliable information and research from these multiple
sectors, WHO has conducted or sponsored a wide variety of studies on migrant
health issues in Thailand.
A key focus has been on developing a health systems approach to address
multiple facets of the issue (7). Specific work has also been directed to
assisting with the development of sustainable solutions for the financing of
health care and services for non-Thais (8). Providing this information is
essential for advocacy efforts and policy development for a comprehensive
approach to migrant and border health.
(1)International Organization of Migration, Thailand Migration
Report-2011. Bangkok: IOM,
Philip. The economic contribution of migrant workers to Thailand:
towards policy development. Bangkok:
International Labour Office, 2007.
Insurance Cluster, Permanent Secretary Office, Ministry of Public Health,
Data as of 29 February 2012
Baker S. Holumyong C, and Thianlai. Research
gaps concerning the health of migrants from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar in
Thailand. Bangkok: Institute
of Population and Social Research, Mahidol
University, and WHO.
Organization of Migration,
Migration Report-2011. Bangkok: IOM, 2011.
(6) See Supporting
health systems development for migrant populations: a WHO strategy for
support to migrant health development in Thailand, WHO, September
2008; see also Improving access to health care
for migrants and refugees, WHO September 2010 issue.
for Population and Social Research. A
situation analysis on health system strengthening for migrants in Thailand.
WHO. November 2011.
(8) Srithamrongsawat S et al. Financing healthcare for migrants:
a case study from Thailand. IOM and WHO. 2009.