The long wait for the Supreme Court’s order to restore Maya Bay
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The long wait for the Supreme Court’s order to restore Maya Bay

The long wait for the Supreme Court’s order to restore Maya Bay

In 1998, the famous Hollywood film received approval for filming at Maya Bay located in Krabi, Thailand. During filming, the movie’s producer, upon approval by the relevant government agencies (i.e. the Royal Forest Department, etc.), re-landscaped the beach and planted various new trees to give a perfect tropical look and feel to Maya Bay; however, the said acts caused substantial damage to the local environment. In addition, once the film was launched, it put Maya Bay on the map which led to mass tourism over the following two decades. As a result, it was closed in October 2018 to allow it to recover from the impact of a daily influx of more than 6,000 visitors.

In 1999, some local governmental agencies and local villagers residing near Maya Bay filed a civil lawsuit against the relevant national government agencies, the Hollywood producer and the local film coordinator (local production) seeking for damages of THB 100 million (approx. USD 3 million) for environmental damage. The Court of First Instance dismissed the case by reasoning that the Hollywood producer and local production company had restored the section of the beach in dispute after completing filming as agreed. The case then went further to the Court of Appeal and then eventually to the Supreme Court.

In 2022, the Supreme Court recently rendered its decision that the relevant government agency was liable for rehabilitating Maya Bay by setting up a committee to formulate a rehabilitation plan within 30 days.

Based on this Supreme Court’s decision, foreign producers who wish to film in Thailand should be wary of the lingering effects their production may have on the local environment, and should therefore carefully conduct a background check on the local production as to, among others, whether they have good governance and comply with the local laws as well as FCPA/UK Bribery Act. Although permission/approval had been granted to film in the said area, it does not mean that the cast and crew members can make permanent or even semi-permanent alterations to the filming area. Also, due diligence on the filming area for the actual owner and relevant laws to be complied with is encouraged in order to mitigate any potential risks that may arise in the future.

Author : Tanakrit Tangburanakij

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