Thailand takes unkindly to island image in ‘Beach’

Parliament sees negative portrayal of Buddism in pic

BANGKOK — “The Beach” has run into another stumbling block in Thailand.

As the 20th Century Fox pic gets set to open in theaters across Thailand today, the Parliament House Committee on Religion, Arts and Culture suggested recalling the film from distribution because it portrays a negative image of Buddhism.

The Leonardo DiCaprio starrer has attracted controversy since filming in Thailand last year, where local environmental protesters cited Fox for “damaging the natural environment of Thailand.”

As the movie premiered Tuesday in Bangkok, a handful of environmentalists picketed the Major Cineplex theaters where the movie was being shown. But the audience of more than 1,000 dignitaries, Thai stars and press seemed equally concerned about references to the availability of casual sex and drugs in Thailand.

House committee spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang said the opening scene of “The Beach” misleads moviegoers into believing that a Buddha image would actually be placed on a footpath in an entertainment zone in Thailand.

“Besides damage to the environment during its filming, ‘The Beach’ damages the image of Buddhism. Moreover it now faces a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, so the showing should be halted,” he said.

A member of Fox’s marketing department argued that the intention of the opening Buddha scene was merely to identify Thailand.

“The movie has already been approved by the Thai Film Board for distribution. As Buddhists, we wouldn’t introduce any movie that would negatively affect the image of our country,” said the source.

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