These houses were built and generously offered for free to struggling Muslim villagers from the South of Thailand by previous kings. This was a way to maintain control over the population and avoid internal conflicts. The houses belong to the family and are not allowed to be sold or leased.
In exchange for housing for life, the villagers were also asked to stand as “Guardians of Bangkok” in case of any invasion attempt from the sea. They would be the first line of defense and warn the capital against arriving warships.
Needless to say, nowadays, there’s no chance of invasion from the Chao Phraya river and the only battle the inhabitants fight is against poverty.
It was also interesting to see the contrast between the old crammed houses on the canal and the new condos for expats on the other side.