Existing Roles of Traditional Healers (mor baan) in Southern Thailand Academic Article uri icon


  • Traditional healers (mor baan) played an important role in Thai health long before the introduction of Western medicine. Although modern health professional play a key role of health care provider of Thai health care system, traditional healers and their practice still exist in most rural areas of Thailand. In this article, we address the roles and practices of traditional healers in southern Thailand. An ethnographic method was employed. This approach is the hallmark method used to describe the role and the practice of traditional healers and to grasp in-depth understanding of their everyday life. Participation observation and unstructured interview with 18 traditional healers were conducted. Thematic analysis method was used to analyse the data. Most of the traditional healers chose their role because they were influenced by their ancestors, although a few others chose it because of individual interests and a desire to help ill people. All are trained in multiple skills, using supernatural spirits, ceremonies and natural plant products as resources for counteracting various health problems. They refer patients to modern hospitals or other healers if they cannot adequately manage illness themselves. Their service provision is flexible and based on a holistic approach that suits people's lifestyles and needs. The role of traditional healer tends not to attract the interest of younger generations, although traditional healers have contributed greatly to people's health. Their presence improves people's access to healthcare and offers an alternative to modern medicine, which often has a limited role. We conclude that the services of traditional healers should be incorporated into contemporary healthcare provision of Thai health care system.

publication date

  • June 2011