BANGKOK -- Human rights abuses, constant fighting, and poverty are forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the Asian nation of Burma, also known as Myanmar.
Many have sought refuge in neighboring Thailand, who has hosted refugees from its neighbor country for more than two decades. Most of these illegal migrants live a life of uncertainty, but many have found sanctuary and a lasting peace.
Sai Myint was 15 years old when he joined a rebel group in Burma.
"Our family became very poor after my father who was a soldier, lost his legs while fighting and eventually he also lost his job," Myint said. "We had no money to buy food. I only reached second grade in school. When I became a teenager, I had no direction in life. I joined my friends to go to the mountains and joined a rebel group."
After three years, Myint was tired of fighting. He crossed the border to Thailand to find a job, but like most illegal immigrants, he was soon sold into servitude. A fisherman paid an agent $300 for Myint, but the young man had to work off twice that amount to buy back his freedom.
"It was very difficult but here I have a chance to find a job and have a better life," Myint said.
Myint was a Buddhist, but in 2007 he found new life when a friend brought him to the Myanmar Christian Assembly, where Burmese refugees like him learned about the love of Jesus and have been transformed.
Like Myint, the former Buddhists were baptized into the Christian faith after learning about God's love for them.
"While we were praying, I saw in a vision, the statue of Buddha collapsed and I saw Jesus standing before me," one new convert said. "He said, 'I am the Lord above all gods and idols.' I used to be a Buddhist but now I worship Jesus Christ in my life."
"In Thailand, the Burmese (are) open to the gospel," said Pastor Zaw Min, who leads the Myanmar Christian Assembly. "The reason is they want to grab something that is real. That's the only message we give. First they should experience that Jesus is alive then they receive Jesus as their Saviour."
Pastor Min said their church is training its members to be evangelists and missionaries so one day they can go back to Burma and preach the gospel.
"One day when the country is open, they will go back and be missionaries to their own home and their villages," Min said.
"I like to share with my family how Jesus has changed me," Myint said. "Before I used to drink and do drugs, but all that stopped when I surrendered my life to Jesus. I am very happy now and I want my family to be happy too."