American bitcoin trader and his girlfriend could face death penalty over their "seastead" home off the coast of Phuket
According to Thai authorities, the unconventional establishment threatens their sovereignty, and under the country's Immigration Act, the couple could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
An American bitcoin trader and his girlfriend who lived in a "sea home" off the coast of Phuket could now face the death penalty after being accused of threatening Thailand's sovereignty by setting up their unconventional establishment.
Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Supranee Thepdet have gone into hiding after law enforcement revoked the former's visa. The couple's residence was built atop a platform almost 12 miles off the coast of Phuket, CNN reports.
According to Elwartowski, his home did not fall under the sovereignty of any country - a claim refuted by Thai authorities. The American, however, doubled down on Thursday, claiming the home was "outside of Thailand territorial waters."
However, as per the country's Immigration Act, the couple could face life imprisonment or the death penalty for their actions. Speaking to CNN, authorities said they are unable to track the couple and are unaware if they are still in the country.
The American was unsure whether their home had been destroyed, per a Facebook post last Tuesday. However, he informed that "Nadia and I are still safe."
"Whether it is still there or not does not matter much to me," Elwartowski said. "I'm more concerned about Nadia being driven from her home country and her family. Her son is worried. I hope they can be reunited someday soon," adding "It was my home."
The pair did not design or construct the controversial home, but rather worked with the company that did, the bitcoin trader wrote in an earlier post. "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 wrote.
Nonetheless, Thailand's navy has said the pair has threatened their sovereignty as a nation. "By claiming they own a floating house and using social media tried to sell this kind of house, also they claimed that their house is not under any country's sovereignty, which is not true. And this could cause other people to misunderstand and it is threatening our national security," said Colonel Kataporn Kumthieng, the chief of Phuket's Immigration office, emphasizing on the urgency of the case.
Previously, the Thai Navy had posted a video of the remote residence on Facebook, saying "the navy is required to resolve the problem."
In a series of videos and podcasts before fleeing the place, Elwartowski had promoted the used of "seasteads." Many a time, he boasted how he was unaffected by taxation laws and policy decisions set by nation-state governments.
The "seasteading" movement began in 2008 with the backing of hedge-fund billionaire Peter Thiel. Ever since, it has been compared to the phenomenon of micronations after its vision of establishing sovereign communities beyond the jurisdictions of existing states.
That said, the company which built Elwartowski's seastead, Ocean Builders, said in a statement that it had constructed the housing hoping to create 20 units in the opening round and that the couple were "volunteers excited about the prospect of living free."
The company went on to accuse Thai authorities of acting as "judge jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead," insisting the six-meter platform was 13 nautical miles from Thailand. Nonetheless, they hoped to resolve the issue "diplomatically", the statement said.