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Thai court orders rehabilitation of Maya Bay beach 22 years after damage by film crew

Thai court orders rehabilitation of Maya Bay beach 22 years after damage by film crew
September 14, 2022

More than two decades after the Hollywood film The Beach was shot at Thailand's scenic Maya Bay, the nation’s Supreme Court has ordered the Royal Forest Department to press ahead with environmental rehabilitation work.

Filmed on Ko Phi Phi Leh in southern Thailand, The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio (released in 2000), drew criticism for the impact of the shoot on the pristine sands of the island’s Maya Bay.

Filmmakers planted dozens of coconut trees to give a more ‘tropical’ feel to the location and were also accused of ripping up vegetation growing on sand dunes.

However, US production studio 20th Century Fox insisted it left the beach exactly how it found it and that it even removed tonnes of rubbish.

The local authorities filed a civil lawsuit in late 1999 against Thai Government agencies, 20th Century Fox and a Thai film coordinator, seeking 100 million baht (US$2.7 million) in compensation for environmental damage.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court in Bangkok upheld a previous ruling by a Civil Court that Thailand’s Royal Forest Department was liable for rehabilitating Maya Bay.

In a final ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the Department to set up a committee to formulate a rehabilitation plan within 30 days.

Environmental campaigners launched two unsuccessful legal challenges to stop filming of the movie, based on Alex Garland’s 1996 cult novel, over concerns about ecological damage.

The film exposed Maya Bay to mass tourism which, generating excess visitor numbers, led to it being closed in October 2018 to allow it to recover from the impact of a daily influx of 6,000 visitors.

The entire Phi Phi archipelago was forced into a convalescence when the global pandemic hit and visitor numbers dwindled to virtually nil as Thailand imposed tough travel rules.

Maya Bay reopened to tourists at the start of 2022, with visitor numbers capped to try to limit ecological damage.

Images: The idyllic attraction of Maya Bay (top) and with large number of visitors prior to it being closed in October 2018 (below). Credit: Shutterstock.

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-founder/Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-founder and Publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

In 2020, he launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

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