Supreme Court orders rehabilitation of Maya Bay using funds from “The Beach” film production

Photo: Sakanan Plathong

The Environmental Cases Division of Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld the acquittal of former Agriculture Minister Pongpol Adireksarn, the Royal Forest Department and its former director-general, Plodprasop Suraswadi, on charges of violating the National Park Act by allowing the use of Maya bay and beach, on the island of Phi Phi Leh off Krabi province, as the location for the shooting of the film “The Beach” in 1999.

The court did, however, order the Royal Forest Department to undertake sustainable rehabilitation of Maya beach and the island on which it is located.

Regarding Twentieth Century Fox and Santa International Film Productions, which were responsible for changing the landscape of the beach for the shooting of the film, the Supreme Court upheld the compromise agreement signed in 2018 by the two companies and the plaintiffs, under which the former agreed to provide 10 million baht for the rehabilitation of the landscape of the Maya Bay, to be undertaken by the Royal Forest Department, and for the department to report the progress of its work once every year for three years.

The case dates back to 1999, when the mayors of the Krabi provincial administrative organisation (PAO), Ao Nang tambon administrative organization (TAO) and 17 local environmentalists filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court against then Agriculture Minister Pongpol Adireksarn, Forest Department Director-General Plodprasop Suraswadi, Twentieth Century Fox and Santa International Film Productions for allegedly ruining the landscape and environment of Maya beach during the shooting of the film “The Beach.”

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie is about a backpacker who visits Thailand in search of a “paradise” island.

The plaintiffs asked the court to suspend the shooting of the film and demanded 100 million baht in compensation for the rehabilitation of the landscape and ecological system on the island.

They accused the companies of moving in heavy equipment to alter the landscape of the beach and replaced many ingenuous plants with coconut trees, to create a setting that met the plot of the movie.

The Civil Court accepted the case in 2012 and it dragged on through three courts, until the final verdict of the Supreme Court was read today (Tuesday).

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