Thailand is a country of 513,000 square kilometers situated in Southeast Asia, with Myanmar on the west, Laos and Kampuchea on the east, Malaysia to the South, and Myanmar and Laos to the north. According to the 1990 census it had a population of 56.4 million with an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent. More than 25 percent of the population live in urban areas. The country consists of seventy- three provinces; each is divided into eight to ten amphurs (districts) and each amphur into eight to ten tambons (groups of villages), with eight to twelve villages in each tambon.
The Ministry of Public Health has taken major responsibility for the delivery of health services. It operates the health centers in every tambon, the community hospitals (10-90 beds each) in every amphur, the 89 provincial hospitals (200-500 beds each) that provide specialized care in every province including Bangkok. In addition to the Ministry of Public Health, many other ministries, such as Defense, Interior and the Office of University Affairs also take part in providing health services. The government owns and operates 70 per cent of the hospitals; the remaining 30 percent are private sector, have fewer beds but more sophisticated equipment and are located in big cities ( Thailand 1991).
In the past decade, the Thai economy has grown rapidly. The average annual rate of growth in the Fifth Five-Year National Economic and Social Development Plan ( 1982- 1986) was 4.5 percent, in the Sixth Plan ( 1987-1991), it was 10.5 percent, and in the Seventh ( 1992-1996), it is estimated to be 8.2 percent (NESDB 1987-1991). However, the income gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Between 1976 and 1986 the share of total national income received by the upper 20 percent of the population increased from 49.5 percent in 1976 to 55.6 percent in 1986, while the share received by the lowest, 20 percent decreased from 6.1 percent to 4.6 percent.