An American man and his Thai partner have been living in their floating platform home off the coast of Phuket as pioneers of the so-called “seasteading” (combining the sea and homesteading) movement.
The idea is to create permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside of the territory claimed by any governments. Proponents of the concept believe floating nations will “restore the environment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and liberate humanity from politicians.”
Chad Andrew Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet, who also goes by her English name Nadia Summergirl, have a small structure anchored about 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from Phuket’s shore.
Despite technically being outside of Thailand’s territorial waters, Thai authorities have deemed their “seasteading” lifestyle as a threat to national sovereignty, ABC reports.
Facing potential death sentences, the couple fled their floating platform home ahead of a raid by Thai authorities. Under Thai law, such an offense is punishable by life imprisonment or death.
The couple reportedly breached section 119 of the Thai criminal code, referring to the intent to impact the sovereignty or deteriorate the independence of the state.
“The complaint has been filed against them for breaching Section 119 of the Criminal Code as there is evidence showing that they have publicly invited people on social media to stay at the site, which is adjacent to our territorial waters … we have laws to deal with this. It affects our sovereignty,” a Third Naval Area commander was quoted as saying.
Elwartowski expressed his response via a Facebook post: “This is ridiculous. We lived on a floating houseboat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.”
Elwartowski, who is now a bitcoin investor, used to work as a software engineer for the US military before investing in the cryptocurrency.
In an interview with Reason magazine, he revealed that “the team surrounding the project were early adopters of bitcoin.” He also shared that some $150,000 were spent on the project.
Many have criticized the concept of “seasteading” as elitist and delusional when it was first popularized by proponents a couple of years ago.
“Chad and Nadia are safe for now but understand that Thailand is currently being run by a military dictator,” it said in a statement.
“We hope this issue can be resolved diplomatically with the Thai government and are ready to talk to anyone in charge at any time. We have tried several times to talk to anyone but were always told that we have nothing to worry about because we are legally in international waters.”
Despite video evidence on YouTube showing the couple erecting a spar in the ocean and towing the platform home out to sea, Elwartowski and Ocean Builders claim the couple was not involved in the construction of the sea home.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Thai navy will be dismantling the structure.