Despite its location just outside of Thailand’s territorial waters, leaving it outside the reach of the country’s laws according to international maritime law, the world’s second “seastead” was raided by Thai police earlier this week as the country’s military-dominated government pressed charges of violating national sovereignty against the two bitcoin enthusiasts who had lived there.
The couple, Chad Elwartowski and his partner Supranee Thepdet, who goes by Nadia, could face life in prison or a death sentence in a Thai court if they are caught and formally charged. The two had sought to be pioneers in the seasteading movement, which advocates building structures anchored in international waters to allow people to live outside the control of governments and their laws. The couple’s home in the Adaman Sea, off the coast of Phuket.
Elwartowski claimed in a Facebook post published earlier this week that the Thai government “wants us killed”, though he added that he and Nadia had sought refuge somewhere safe, outside the reach of Thai authorities. The two only lived on the vessel part time.
“Hunting us down to our death is just plain stupid and highlights exactly the reason someone would be willing to go out in middle of the ocean to get away from governments,” he wrote. “We never had any ill intentions and I even state plainly several times that I would not want to be a citizen of any seastead nation that would have me.”
Thai authorities revoked Elwartowski’s visa and said they would destroy the seastead within a week. The crackdown has dashed the couple’s plans to build ‘underwater restaurants’ and ‘floating hotels’ to Phuket.
“We were hoping to bring tourism to Phuket with an underwater restaurant, floating hotels and medical research, tech jobs, etc. We had 3 wealthy entrepreneurs in the past week tell us they were coming to live in Phuket because they were excited about the project,” Elwartowski wrote.
“We’re looking forward to freedom-loving people to come join us out on the open ocean,” he said.
A promotional video from March showed the couple toasting champagne to the future on the open water. Elwartowski said during the video that their home would be the first of 20 built by the company Ocean Builders.
Instagram photos and video posted by Nadia, also known as “bitcoingirlthailand,” also showed life out at sea.
But Thailand’s navy said the couple’s outpost still endangered national sovereignty, charging them with article 119 of the Thai Criminal Code, an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Ocean Builders, the company that built the couple’s seastead, released a statement on Monday saying that the couple were “volunteers excited about the prospect of living free” and were in “no way” involved in building the structure. They also confirmed that the couple are safe…at least for now.
“Chad and Nadia are safe for now but understand that Thailand is currently being run by a military dictator. There will be no trial if they are caught,” the group said. “They already demonstrated that by being judge jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead.”
While charges against the two had been filed by the Navy, Thai Police colonel Nikorn Somsuk said the country’s AG would still need to sign off for charges of violating national sovereignty – charges that carry max penalties of life imprisonment or execution – to be brought.
While Ocean Builders had been planning to build more seasteads near Phuket, we imagine those plans are on hold for now. And with it, the dream held by many in the cryptocurrency community of living a life free of government intervention has faced a serious setback.