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The BBC's Charlotte Bevan reports
A major tourist attraction and a revenue earner for local people
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 14:07 GMT
DiCaprio film trial begins
Making waves: Vegetation was uprooted to create the perfect beach

By Charlotte Bevan in Bangkok

The trial has begun in Thailand of the makers of the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, on charges of damaging a national park.

Thai businessmen and local officials are prosecuting Twentieth Century Fox and Thai government ministries, which gave the studio permission to landscape a beach on Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Island, to create a football scene.

Local people say alterations made for the $40m movie have caused dramatic erosion to the beach. They are demanding $3m to restore it to its natural beauty.

Heart-throb Leordando DiCaprio stars in the $40m movie
The plaintiffs include 19 people from local government and businesses from southern Thailand.

They say that by landscaping the beach at Maya bay, where Twentieth Century Fox filmed for approximately two weeks last year, the movie makers have destroyed a pristine area of national park.

They say it is also a major tourist attraction and a revenue earner for local people.

Erosion scars

Fox was given permission from Thailand's government ministries to alter the beach, uproot vegetation, level it and plant palm trees, which they subsequently removed after filming.

Local people say the changes caused dramatic erosion
They had environmental consultants on the job and pledged a $140,000 guarantee to return Maya to its natural state after filming.

But environmental activists in Thailand point to recent pictures in a local newspaper as proof of the damage done.

Those photographs show Maya Bay bearing deep, two-metre scars of erosion at the end of this year's monsoon season.

Long process

Even though it is normal for a certain amount of erosion to take place during the rainy season, they argue this year it is worse than ever.

The plaintiffs also prosecuting the agriculture and forestry ministries, accusing them of abusing their powers by giving the film's producers permission to alter the landscape in a national park.

It is the first time in Thailand's history such a case has been brought by ordinary citizens against the government.

But given the traditionally slow pace of Thailand's legal system, the case could go on for years.

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See also:
06 Dec 98 |  Entertainment
Trouble in Paradise
15 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
DiCaprio's Thai present problem
03 Feb 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Film-makers start restoring Thai beach
01 Feb 99 |  Entertainment
Fox faces investigation over Beach row
18 Jan 99 |  Entertainment
DiCaprio tries to calm Beach storm

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