Residents in the area said that about 50 workers arrived with a backhoe at about 1pm and began moving boulders into place to block access to the sea gypsies sacred Balai shrine.
In response, more than 200 sea gypsy villagers then arrived to stop the men from working.
Both parties argued and threw rocks at each other for 30 minutes, then stopped just when Chalong Police Chief Col Nopadon Thiraprawat arrived with more than 50 officers and officials from Rawai Municipality to prevent the dispute from escalating into violence.
While police were trying to talk both parties to cease hostilities, sea gypsies removed the large rocks out of the disputed area and cleared their walkway to the shrine.
“The windows on the company’s backhoe were damaged and four workers and one sea gypsy left with minor injuries from the confrontation,” Col Nopadon said.
“The situation abated when we arrived. Workers left the area, but they left the backhoe behind while some sea gypsies stayed to guard the site. We have officers monitoring the situation and provide them security.
“We later contacted the company to remove their equipment from the area. Officials will have a yet another meeting soon to talk to both parties and resolve this,” he said.
The military was called in to keep the peace after a confrontation between workers and sea gypsies flared in January, sparking a flurry of accusations and arguments against claims to land in the sea gypsy village by Baron World Trade Co and nearly a dozen other individuals. (See story here.)
Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada in February offered the sea gypsies a 45-rai site in Rassada with no direct access to the sea as an “alternative” if the court and investigation committees formed by the provincial government upheld the private land claims to plots within the sea gypsy village. (See story here.)