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Seastead couple in crosshairs

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Taa_Saparot

https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1661300/seastead-couple-in-crosshairs

Seastead couple in crosshairs
Navy complaint over 'living platform'
Published: 14/04/2019

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The Third Naval Area Command has filed a police complaint against an American man and his Thai wife who set up a floating living platform 12 nautical miles off the coast of Phuket, a practice also known as seasteading.

Staff judge advocates from the command were sent to lodge the complaint at Wichit police station in Phuket on Saturday, according to a source at the command.

They accused Chad Andrew Elwartowski and his Thai wife, Supranee Thepdet, with an English alias of Nadia Summergirl, of breaching Section 119 of Criminal Code.

The section concerns any acts that cause the country or parts of it to fall under the sovereignty of a foreign state or deterioration of the state's independence.

It is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The source said officers found evidence which led them to believe the couple was engaging in the setting up of an independent state. Such an act would have a negative impact on the country's shoreline, the source said.

"The regional office of the Marine Department will be contacted to remove the structure from the sea soon," the source said.

"If it is left untouched, it will hinder ship navigation since the route is used for the transport of oil to Phuket."

Referring to claims by the couple that the seastead was set up outside Thai maritime territory, the source said the claim was untrue.

Officers, the source said, are investigating the Thai company in Phuket responsible for building the platform for possible financial misconduct. Mr Elwartowski was rich from bitcoin trading.

The Maritime Enforcement Coordination Centre's third area command on Saturday held a news conference about the seastead, covered recently by both domestic and foreign media.

The pair reportedly aimed to set up a permanent shelter out of any state territories by exploiting a loophole in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The practice of attempting to establish micronations that claim to be an independent nation or state but are not recognised by world governments or major international organisations is expanding globally, particularly among those who become rich from cryptocurrency trading, according to officers.

Vice-Admiral Sittiporn Maskasem, commander of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, on Saturday sent officers to where the structure was set up, 15 nautical miles southeast of Racha Yai island.

Navy officers tried to make radio contact with people on the platform but no one responded, officers said.

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Taa_Saparot

https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1663980/seasteading-home-violates-sovereignty-says-thailand

Seasteading home 'violates Thai sovereignty'
Published: 19/04/2019

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Authorities have raided a floating home in the Andaman Sea belonging to an American man and his Thai partner who sought to be pioneers in the "seasteading" movement, which promotes living in international waters to be free of any nation's laws.

The Royal Thai Navy said Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet endangered national sovereignty, an offence punishable by life imprisonment or death.

It filed a complaint against them with police in Phuket. Thai authorities said they have revoked Mr Elwartowski's visa.

Mr Elwartowski said in an email on Thursday that he believes he and Supranee -- also known as Nadia Summergirl -- did nothing wrong.

"This is ridiculous,'' he said in an earlier statement posted online. "We lived on a floating houseboat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.''

The couple, who have gone into hiding, had been living part-time on a small structure they said was anchored outside Thai territorial waters, just over 12 nautical miles from shore. They were not there when the navy carried out its raid on Saturday.

The deputy naval commander responsible for the area said the project was a challenge to the country's authorities.

"This affects our national security and cannot be allowed,'' Rear Adm Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media on Tuesday. He said the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane.

Seasteading has had a revival in recent years as libertarian ideas of living free from state interference -- such as by using cryptocurrency including bitcoin -- have become more popular, including among influential Silicon Valley figures such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Mr Elwartowski, an IT specialist, has been involved in bitcoin since 2010.

Several larger-scale projects are under development, but some in the seasteading community have credited the Andaman Sea house with being the first modern iteration of seasteading.

"The first thing to do is whatever I can to help Chad & Nadia, because living on a weird self-built structure and dreaming of future sovereignty should be considered harmless eccentricities, not major crimes,'' Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who heads The Seasteading Institute, said on his Facebook page.

The floating two-storey octagonal house at the centre of the controversy had been profiled and promoted online by a group called Ocean Builders, which touted it as a pilot project and sought to sell additional units.

The group describes itself as "a team of engineering focused entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading and are willing to put the hard work and effort forward to see that it happens".

In online statements, both Mr Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the couple merely promoted and lived on the structure, and did not fund, design, build or set the location for it.

"I was volunteering for the project promoting it with the Desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform,'' Mr Elwartowski told The Associated Press.

"Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared,'' Mr Elwartowski said. "We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.''

Asked his next step, he was more optimistic.

"I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government,'' he said.

 

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