Supreme Court: Maya Bay Must Be Restored by Forestry Department

The Supreme Court has ordered the Forestry Department to restore Maya Bay, the popular Thai tourist spot that suffered environmental damage during Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach” filming 24 years ago.

The famous 1998 movie was filmed in Thailand, with most of the filming taking place on Maya Bay Beach.

However, the production team was accused of ecological vandalism after it planted imported palm trees to make the beach look more “perfect.” The 2004 tsunami also suffered severe damage to the area.

Nineteen plaintiffs, including the Krabi Provincial Administration Organization and Muang District of Krabi province, filed a lawsuit in the Civil Court. The defendants were the then-agriculture minister, the Forestry Department and the department’s then-chief, Thai agent Santa International Film Production, and Twentieth Century Fox Co.

All were charged with violating the National Park Act and the National Environmental Quality Act.

After authorities approved Maya Bay’s relandscaping for “The Beach” filming in 1998, the plaintiffs filed suit against those involved, asking the court to nullify the orders issued by the first, second, and third defendants that allowed the fourth defendant to film the movie.

The lawsuit also asked the production companies to give money as a guarantee for the restoration. Otherwise, the court should order the then-agriculture minister, the Forestry Department and the department’s then-chief to revoke Thai agent Santa International Film Production and Twentieth Century Fox Co’s permission to shoot the film.

The lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the Forestry Department to restore Maya Bay to its natural state and establish a working group to develop a plan to rehabilitate the area and promote its sustainable use.

The working group had to be constituted within 30 days after the ruling and include the then-agriculture minister, experts appointed by the court, and private sector representatives.

The court also ordered the production companies to implement a compromise agreement dated February 27, 2019. Under the deal, Twentieth Century Fox Co agreed to pay 10 million baht that the first and second plaintiffs had to use for nature conservation in accordance with their authority.

The then-agriculture minister had to update the court on the restoration plan’s progress for three consecutive years or until the money was spent.

After the lower court acquitted the then agriculture minister and the Forestry Department’s former chief, the department asked for its acquittal, too.

The case then escalated to the Supreme Court, which found that the plaintiffs’ appeal was partially strong.

The Civil Court read the ruling on Tuesday, upholding previous lower court rulings and ordering the Forestry Department to restore Maya Bay within 30 days.