Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet in hiding after police accuse seastead of violating sovereignty
An American bitcoin entrepreneur could be facing the death penalty after Thailands navy accused him of violating the countrys sovereignty by building a sea home off the coast of Phuket.
Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend Supranee Thepdet, known as Nadia, have gone into hiding after the Thai authorities said they would take legal action against the pair for building a seastead home. The structure is made up of an octagon platform sitting atop a 20 metre long pillar and lies 12 nautical miles from the shore.
However, Elwartowski insisted the house was 13 miles from the shore, and therefore outside of Thailands jurisdiction.
Elwartowski and Supranee are pioneers of the seasteading movement, which envisages building homes and floating cities in seas outside of national jurisdictions, which are therefore not subject to the laws and taxes of any country.
Elwartowski, who worked as a software engineer for the US military in Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea before accumulating his wealth through investing in cryptocurrency Bitcoin, is part of Ocean Builders, a community of entrepreneurs who aim to build seasteading communities.
He and Supranee were the first volunteers to live on one of the floating structures and in February said he was drawn to the community as a place where freedom-loving people can all gather together and actually be free together.
Writing on Facebook on Wednesday Elwartowski said: Nadia and I are still safe . However he emphasised they had not built the home themselves and described himself and Suprenee as tenants.
The person(s) who funded the seastead are concerned about losing the seastead but Nadia and I were just tenants, added Elwartowski. But as long as Nadia and I are able to live through this that is all that matters to us right now. We just want to live.
The structure, which was rooted to the floor but could be floated to new waters , was placed in the sea near Racha Yai island in Thailand in February but it was only discovered by Thai navy officers this week. The couple were no aboard at the time.
It led to accusations the couple had disrespected Thai law by not seeking permission for the structure. The authorities said they were now considering legal action for a violation of the countrys sovereignty, charges which carry the death penalty.