- An American bitcoin trader could face a death sentence in Thailand after authorities confiscated his floating home, which he built in an attempt to declare an autonomous seaborne community.
- Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, had been living in the so-called seastead but fled before authorities arrived.
- Thai authorities said the pair claimed they were beyond the jurisdiction of Thailand but that their actions were “deteriorating Thailand’s independence.”
- Elwartowski and Thepdet built the home to test the viability of creating a floating community in international waters that would not be subject to the laws of any nation.
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An American bitcoin trader who built a floating home off the coast of Thailand in an attempt to develop an autonomous seaborne community could face a death sentence, authorities said.
The floating home of Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, was towed ashore by Thai authorities on Monday to be taken apart, and the couple have been accused of violating Thailand’s sovereignty, an offence that can carry the death penalty or life in prison, Sky News reported.
Elwartowski’s visa has also been revoked, Sky News said.
“The couple announced on social media declaring their autonomy beyond the jurisdiction of any courts or law of any countries, including Thailand,” Rear Adm. Vithanarat Kochaseni told reporters, according to Reuters.
He added that authorities “see such action as deteriorating Thailand’s independence.”
The couple built the floating home – which was about 14 miles off the coast of the island of Phuket – to test the viability of creating a floating community in international waters that would not be subject to the laws of any nation.
Thailand’s navy had for several days been considering removing the home, sometimes referred to as a “seastead,” but reportedly had concerns about removing it without destroying it.
Neither Elwartowski nor Thepdet was in the floating home when authorities arrived, Sky News reported. Their whereabouts are unknown, though authorities say they are most likely still in Thailand, the network added.
Elwartowski in a statement described Thailand’s pursuit of him and Thepdet as “ridiculous.”
“We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed,” he said, according to Sky News. “We are still quite scared for our lives.”
He added: “We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.”
He said he thinks his lawyer “can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government.”
‘You can demolish the seastead, but you can’t demolish the knowledge that was gained’
Elwartowski and Thepdet’s seastead was part of an experiment led by the Seasteading Institute, a group backed by Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire behind PayPal.
The organisation describes itself as “a nonprofit think-tank promoting the creation of floating ocean cities as a revolutionary solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems.”
According to Sky News, Joe Quirk, the institute’s president, said Elwartowski and Thepdet “proved a single-family seastead can float stably in international waters for less than the cost of the average American home.”
“You can demolish the seastead, but you can’t demolish the knowledge that was gained,” he added.
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