Thailand is considering the possibility of the free movement of pharmacists in the ASEAN region. The issue will be raised for discussion with other ASEAN partners.
Member of the Board of Pharmacy Council of Thailand Dr. Nilsuwan Leelarasmee said that pharmacists are not among the professionals in eight fields to be provided with free movement within the region, after the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in late 2015.
The eight fields include accountancy, engineering, surveying, architecture, nursing, medical services, dental services, and tourism.
Dr. Nilsuwan believes that the Pharmacy Council of Thailand is ready to initiate the drafting of a framework to facilitate the mobility of pharmacists within ASEAN, like that of doctors, dentists, and nurses, who are professionals involved with hospitals. He said that many Thai pharmacists are ready to work overseas, not only in the ASEAN region.
Thailand now produces around 1,300 to 1,400 pharmacists a year. There are currently 50,000 pharmacists who are members of the Pharmacy Council of Thailand.
ASEAN established the AEC Roadmap to create a "single market and production base” by 2015, aiming for the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labor. The movement of labor within the framework of AEC is under the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), an agreement to facilitate trade in services by establishing standards for mutual licensing or certification of professionals. With the MRA in place, professional service suppliers from sectors that are registered with or certified by the relevant authorities in their home countries will also be recognized by other ASEAN countries participating in the arrangement.
Dr. Nilsuwan said that the MRA on ASEAN pharmacists should set a scope of work or certain conditions, like that set for Thai doctors. For example, Thai doctors wishing to work in Malaysia should be employed at a hospital with more than 100 beds.
Concerning pharmacist licenses, he said, pharmacists wanting to work overseas will be required to pass a test to obtain a license in their respective countries. They must be subject to domestic rules and regulations, some of which might be restrictive. Training may be required before they attend a license test.
However, Thailand needs to hold talks with its ASEAN partners on this issue, so that all ASEAN Members will agree on the framework. Dr. Nilsuwan pointed out that if the profession of pharmacists is listed in the fields to be allowed free movement within the region, it will offer great opportunities for personnel in this field.
He said that the process would need some time and that pharmacists should prepare to adjust to the new situation.