Victory for Krabi's local government as Thai court orders film companies to pay for environmental damage in Maya Bay
More than seven years after the filming of 'The Beach' in Ko Phi Phi, Krabi Provincial Administration have won their court case against 20th Century Fox and their local production team, Santa International Film Productions, whom they accused of causing unnecessary damage to Ao Maya in Ko Phi Phi Leh (part of the Nopparat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park).
Protests from environmental groups started before the shoot, following an agreement made between the producers and the Royal Thai Forestry Department, that granted permission to remodel the beach to fit with the demands of the script. The deal allowed machinery to be brought onto the beach to level sand dunes, as well as mature coconut and cashew nut trees to be cut down and replaced with a row of palms.
The local government bodies representing Ko Phi Phi (Or Bor Jor Krabi and Or Bor Tor Ao Nang), as well as 17 residents, then filed a court case against the central government and the film's producers, saying the agreement was made illegally and breached the laws protecting Thai national parks.
Despite efforts by the film company to restore the beach to its previous state, the Appeals Court ruled in 2002 that the environment had been damaged, clearing the way for compensation claims.
Last month, the Thai Supreme Court ruled in favour of the local government plaintiffs (claims from the general public were dismissed) and has now asked them to make a claim for damages from the film's producers.
Ao Nang District Council and Krabi Provincial Administration must now assess the impact of the filming and come up with a figure to cover the cost and time required[highlight=yellow:d8d235b1cd] to restore the beach to its former state: this figure has been estimated at 100 million baht.[/highlight:d8d235b1cd]
Mr Somsak Kittitorakul, leader of the Krabi Provincial Administration, said that [highlight=yellow:d8d235b1cd]Ao Maya's natural beauty had been acquired over centuries, including the sand dunes that offer natural protection to the beach, preventing erosion of the bay during the monsoon season. During the filming, the dunes were destroyed, opening the area up to accelerated erosion that could eventually result in the loss of the beach altogether. He said trees re-planted after the shoot and further bulldozing to create new dunes had not had the desired effect. He also noted that not a single coconut tree was left on the beach - whereas before it was full of them.[/highlight:d8d235b1cd]
Taken from the January issue of Flyer magazine