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Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 12:01 GMT
Thai MPs call for Beach ban
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a traveller in Thailand in the film
Leading Thai politicians have called for The Beach to be banned, claiming the film is blasphemous and portrays their country as a drugs paradise.

The fresh controversy comes two days after the Thai premiere of the movie which was marred by a demonstration by angry environmentalists.
A protester wearing a DiCaprio mask
A protester stages a mock ritual suicide at Bangkok premiere
Members of Thailand's House of Representatives' Arts and Culture Committee said they had received complaints from the public that the film was disrespectful to Buddhism.

"The movie blasphemed Buddhism in a scene in which a big Buddha image is shown in a bar," said committee spokesman Kuthep Saikachang.

MPs were also unhappy with a scene, which they said made Thailand look like a haven for drug addicts.

"In the movie it appears that marijuana is easy to find here and they did a mock-up of the full moon party," Kuthep Saikachang said.

The committee wants Thai film censors to pull the movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio even though it has already been passed for release on Friday.

"Although we will not be able to stop the showing we want the public to more aware of Hollywood film-makers who distort Asian people and their culture," Kuthep Saikachang added.

Troubled history

The Beach has been dogged by controversy for more than a year.

Environmental activists claim producers 20th Century Fox ruined the fragile eco-system of Maya Bay on idyllic Phi Phi island in southern Thailand during filming.
Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Idyllic: Filming of The Beach on Phi Phi island
Fox denies damaging Maya beach and last year DiCaprio issued a statement defending the use of the island.

A court case, against 20th Century Fox, a local producer and the Thai forestry department alleging damage to the beach on Phi Phi island is still going on. The next hearing will be held on 26 March.

The charges claim that the film shoot was given the go-ahead before social impact and environmental studies were carried out and is claiming compensation of more than 100 million baht (1.6m).

The film has had a mixed critical reaction so far and not been the expected box-office blockbuster.

Even die-hard DiCaprio fans in Thailand are torn. Student Piyoros Sirithasana, 20, said she enjoyed the movie but was upset by the violence.

"It just showed a bad image of drug-taking and killings by Thais," she said. "But the scenery of Thailand looked beautiful in the film."

See also:

07 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Thais stage DiCaprio 'suicide'
28 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Beach's box office bombshell
10 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Fears for DiCaprio's Beach
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