Transforming lives on four continents

Polygamy and poverty: struggling to survive at the Thai-Burma border

A Burmese woman in a little village on the outskirts of Mae Sot, Thailand, lives in constant fear that her unfaithful husband will take their daughter away.

Thiri and her one year old daughter Cho Cho

Pain and sadness filled Thiri’s* voice as she told her story to the Compasio Community Team and BMS World Mission workers Brian and Lydia English. Though hearing through translation, Brian and Lydia could see Thiri holding back tears as she spoke.


The little family's homeA few years ago, Thiri’s husband left their home on the outskirts of Mae Sot to work in Bangkok, despite her protests. During the years he lived in Thailand’s capital, Thiri heard nothing from him and his absence made working and caring for their daughter, Cho Cho, much more difficult.


“We hear a lot of stories from poor communities in Mae Sot, of men moving away to find work,” says Brian.  


“Family breakdown is normal here,” says Lydia. “Sometimes people won’t even get divorced, they’ll just separate and have new partners and families. Lots of people from this kind of community are so desperate for work that both men and women will move to big cities like Bangkok to find jobs.”


Brian and Lydia English with Thiri and Cho Cho
Want to support Brian and Lydia English as they help families like Thiri and Cho Cho? Become a Church Partner and support them as a congregation.



When Thiri’s husband returned home, he apologised for leaving and for failing to stay in contact. Later Thiri heard from her neighbours that while in Bangkok he had remarried and brought his new family to Mae Sot, not far from Thiri’s house. Soon, Thiri realised that her husband planned to move in with them and wanted Cho Cho with him.


Thiri refused to let him take her daughter.  


Little village on the outskirts of Mae SotNow she lives in constant fear that her estranged husband will come and steal Cho Cho away. She has no family in the area who can watch Cho Cho and her friends cannot afford to do it, which means working away from home is not an option for Thiri. Though she earns money from making and selling curry, Thiri constantly worries about having enough and desperately needs another job to support the two of them.


To make matters worse, Thiri is often sick. It was in the hospital that BMS partner organisation, Compasio, met Thiri and offered to look after Cho Cho until she recovered. After bringing her back to her mother, Compasio saw the great need of this small family. Compasio, in partnership with BMS, now delivers food to them two or three times a week and gives as much encouragement and support as they can. They will also be helping her to find work once she recovers from her current illness.  


Despite the tears running down her cheeks and the pain shining in her eyes, Thiri told Brian and Lydia that she is used to this life of fear and worry.


Mother and daughterAfter only three weeks into their time in Mae Sot with Compasio, Brian and Lydia are thankful for their training from the International Mission Centre and from Compasio. “Of course your heart is involved and it’s sad but if you become too overwhelmed you stop being effective,” says Lydia. “We have to be realistic about all that we see.”


Compasio and the Englishes know that only so much can be done to fight the immense poverty in Mae Sot, and they will continue building relationships with people, supporting and encouraging struggling families and praying for each other and all those in need.


Please pray that God will keep Thiri and Cho Cho under his care so they can live without fear. Pray as Brian and Lydia continue building relationships with Compasio, with people in Mae Sot and through their language study.


*Not their real names


Photos by John Stephen, Compasio Community Team Leader



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