Maya Bay ruling, 22 years after the scenic Thai bay was featured in The Beach, requires the government to pay for environmental repairs.

In 1999 and 2000, 20th Century Fox filmed The Beach at May Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh in Thailand. The bay’s distinctive undercut cliffs, thick greenery, white sand, and crystalline waters were one of the most memorable features of the movie. The studio, wanting perfect shots, reshaped the forest along the shore of the bay, and more damage has been done by the millions of tourists who have flocked to the site since.

In 2018, Maya Bay had to be closed entirely to tourism to allow the vulnerable dunes to begin to recover from an estimated 6000 daily visitors. The Phi Phi archipelago as a whole has only benefited from the forced closure of the global pandemic, which has kept visitor numbers to nearly nothing for more than two years now.

According to local authorities, the film-makers planted dozens of non-native coconut trees and tore out vegetation growing on sand dunes to achieve the look they wanted. 20th Century Fox insists that they not only returned the beach to exactly the state they found it in, but that they also removed literal tons of trash in cleaning it up before and after filming.

Before the film even aired, however, authorities filed a civil lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, their Thai film coordinator, and the Thai government for allowing the damage to be done. They sought 100m baht ($2.7m USD) in compensation for environmental damage, and the fight has been going on ever since.

Two separate civil courts have ruled that the royal forest department is liable for rehabilitating the damaged environment of Maya Bay, and on Tuesday, a final ruling from the supreme court in Bangkok has upheld those rulings. The royal forest department is expected to close the bay to tourism again to begin replanting and restoration efforts.

Photo: JRP Studio / Shutterstock