Crypto pair risk death for new sea state
Bitcoin trader and Thai wife on the run
An American man who spent some of the fortune he made wagering on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to fund a seasteading structure near Phuket is at risk of facing the death penalty for breaking Thai law.
Authorities are first moving to revoke the visa granted to Chad Andrew Elwartowski after the floating platform was detected on Sunday about 12 nautical miles from Thailand's most famous resort island.
Seasteading is the practice of setting up permanent dwellings at sea. It has become in vogue among libertarians and tech pioneers.
Officers said they found evidence that led them to believe Mr Elwartowski and his Thai wife, Supranee "Nadia" Thepdet, the couple operating the "living platform", were trying to create an independent state.
The pair have been hailed as cryptocurrency evangelists and libertarian idealists for trying to set up a new territory in international waters where Thai laws theoretically do not apply, funded by their crypto winnings.
But while the platform, nestled on top of what looks like a small oil rig, is technically located in international waters, Thai authorities insist it is too close to the Thai coast and poses a threat to the kingdom's sovereignty.
The couple reportedly moved into the structure, the first offshore house by seasteading company Ocean Builders, earlier this year.
They now stand accused of breaching Section 119 of the Criminal Code. This concerns any act that causes the kingdom, or parts of it, to fall under the sovereignty of a foreign power. It also covers other acts that diminish Thailand's independence.
The punishment is death or life imprisonment, and the couple are now believed to be on the run.
The decision to cancel Mr Elwartowski's visa was made yesterday at a meeting chaired by governor Pakkapong Thawipat, shortly after the Third Naval Area Command filed a complaint against the couple at Wichit police station in Phuket.
The Marine Department has been contacted to remove the structure, a source said, but it had not been removed as of press time yesterday.
The authorities expressed concern that, if left untouched it could hinder ship navigation as the route is used to ferry oil to Phuket.
A panel has been established to look into the matter and immigration police were scouring the land for Mr Elwartowski, who entered Thailand at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, the panel and provincial industry office will inspect the boatyard in Thalang district that assembled the platform. Police said if it lacks the proper licence to build such a structure, it will be shut down.
The Harbour Department has warned vessels traversing the area to steer clear of the coordinates where the platform is located in order to minimise the likelihood of an accident at sea.