An American man and his partner who set up a “seasteading” structure off the coast of Phuket say they are in hiding after facing criminal charges by the Thai authorities related to their waterborne homestead.
Chad Andrew Elwartowski, an early bitcoin adopter, and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet (aka Nadia Summergirl), launched their seastead project on February 2 off the southeast coast of Phuket.
The seastead, a permanent home in the sea outside the jurisdiction of any country, is running into trouble with the Thai authorities.
The Royal Thai Navy and Phuket Maritime personnel boarded the structure on Sunday, saying it violates criminal law and posed a navigational hazard.
Nadia and Elwartowski/Facebook's Chad Elwartowski
“Nadia and I are still safe,” Elwartowski posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
He said he was getting conflicting reports saying that the seastead may still be there but what he was concerned most about was Nadia being driven from her home country and her family.
“Her son is worried. I hope they can be reunited some day soon,” Elwartowski said.
“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,” he added.
On Monday, Elwartowski posted that they had to go underground after they were hunted “to death”.
The owner claims that his home is outside Thailand’s maritime boundaries.
According to the Siam Legal international law firm, “Section 119: Intent to cause injury to the nation” states: “Whoever does any act with intent to cause the country or any part thereof to descend under the sovereignty of any foreign state, or to deteriorate the independence of the state, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”
Elwartowski used his early bitcoin investment income to build the seastead at a cost of about US$150,000. He says he is also in the early stages of launching a business, creating seasteads for others who would anchor near his home.
Elwartowski’s company started selling the first 20 floating homes on Sunday.
He claims he has 69 potential seasteaders who have all expressed an interest in joining him in the Andaman Sea community.
The couple say they want to launch a new sovereign state by creating new land far enough offshore that it would be recognised as independent under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Elwartowski claims that his seastead, which he named “XLII”, is outside Thai maritime territory, beyond 12 nautical miles of sovereign territory.
“We are just beyond 12 nautical miles from shore. Under international law this puts us just outside of the territorial waters of Thailand but within their 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Elwartowski said: “This means that we are not subject to Thailand laws other than those that deal with their natural resources and no interfering with their customs.”
But the maritime authorities and the police argue that the claim that the seastead is built in international waters is untrue. They say they are also investigating the Phuket-based Thai construction company responsible for building the platform for possible financial misconduct.
The Phuket Marine Office is trying to contact the couple and the Navy has called on the harbour master in Phuket to remove the structure which appears to be attached to the seabed.
The authorities seek immediate removal saying the lack of electricity at the structure could endanger shipping because of the lack of navigation lights.
If he can afford the costs, Elwartowski could launch a complicated international court case to stave off any attempts to remove the structure in the short-term.