Military personnel led by Lt Col Sompop Kamkana of the Royal Thai Navy secured the area at about 11:30am, while V/Gov Chokdee and Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos spoke with villagers.
When they arrived, rescue workers were busy transporting villagers injured in the clashes to medical facilities nearby.
More than 200 villagers, including women and children, had gathered at the site, where officials were told that that the fight broke when more than 100 workers started to clear the land with a backhoe and excavators.
Villagers attempted to stop the workers from using an excavator from placing rocks to block off the entrance to the land, which resulted in the workers and villagers trading blows.
Chatree Madsatun, the legal representative of Baron World Trade Co Ltd, which claims to own the land, said the company had full rights to the land and had a Chanote land title deed to prove it.
“The Phuket Provincial Land Office conducted a survey of the area on August 13 last year and confirmed at an official meeting that the company had full right to the land, and there many meetings have been held to discuss this matter, but most of the time representatives from the village failed to attend,” he said.
The company built a wall to prevent sea gypsies from trespassing on the land, but the wall was pulled down on June 20, 2015. Large rocks were then placed there to keep villagers out, he explained.
Mr Chatree confirmed that the company will pay all medical expenses for the villagers injured in the clashes.
V/G Chokdee launched an inquest into the incident.
“Officers will stand by to provide security for the villagers until the committee concludes their investigation,” he said.
Military personnel arrived at the disputed site yesterday (Jan 26), though at that time reportedly to ensure that the workers were not impeded from clearing the land. (See story here.)
Meanwhile at Provincial Hall this morning, more than 200 sea gypsies arrived to present a formal request to Deputy Prime Minister Admiral Narong Pipatanasai to resolve the dispute.
The delegation of sea gypsies urged the government to revoke any documents found to support illegitimate claims to land in their community,
They also asked for the central government to investigate why soldiers had refused villagers access to the area and were providing security for a private company.
Sinchai Rupraochin, from the “Phuket Justice for the Poor Network”, also explained that preventing the sea gypsies from accessing the disputed land had cut off access to a sacred place of worship that the sea gypsies had used for generations.
It also denied them direct to access to the sea, he said.
“Us villagers have been bullied by the landowner’s people,” said sea gypsy spokesman Nirandon Yongpan.
“They took public land reserved for sea gypsies and got a Chanote. This has upset more than 2,000 villagers, and if the government does not intervene soon, sea gypsies will lose their land to a private company.”