Hunted seastead couple 'traced to Tarutao island'

Hunted seastead couple 'traced to Tarutao island'

Officials inspect the detached floating seastead cabin at Phuket Deep Sea Port in Phuket province on Tuesday. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)
Officials inspect the detached floating seastead cabin at Phuket Deep Sea Port in Phuket province on Tuesday. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)

PHUKET: The US-Thai couple who built and anchored a seastead floating home off Phuket were last traced to Tarutao island, and the full weight of the law awaits them, authorities said on Tuesday.

Pol Maj Gen Wisarn Phanmanee, the provincial police chief, said American Chad Elwartowski, 46, and Supranee Thepdet's last known location was the southern border island of Tarutao. They were believed to be still within Thai territory, although they had shut down their mobile phones.

Police were preparing charges against them and had already questioned people involved in building and positioning their floating, octagonal six-metre-wide cabin in the sea about 14 nautical miles (about 26km) southeast of  Phuket.  

Prosecution would proceed quickly once police arrest them, he said.

Authorities announced earlier they were preparing  applications for arrest warrants for the couple. Mr Elwartoski's visa has been cancelled.

"Police have contacted all relevant agencies to determine what further possible legal action can be taken aganst them, in addition to charges under Section 119... All laws relating to this matter will be enforced," Pol Maj Gen Wisarn said.

Section 119 of the Criminal Code relates to national sovereignty.

VAdm Sitthiporn Matkasem, the 3rd Naval Area commander, said the couple's action had affected national sovereignty. They had put a floating house in place and invited others to join them at their location, which they claimed to be autonomous.

"It affects security and challenges the state power of Thailand and it is intolerable," he said.

The navy dismantled the floating structure on Monday and its components were taken to Phuket Deep Sea Port, arriving late that night, VAdm Sitthiporn said.

Phuket governor Pakapong Thawipat said he suspended the business licence of the builder of the floating house, who was also fined, and the legality of the business was being thoroughly examined. The dockyard was in Moo 7 village of tambon Mai Khao in Thalang district of Phuket, he said.

"It is on rented land... Officials will check if any nominee runs it. Any government officials who were involved will be decisively disciplined," the governor said.

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