Couple faces possible death penalty over 'floating house' off Thailand's coast
An American man and his girlfriend are at risk of facing the death penalty after the two moved into a sea shack not too far off the coast of Thailand, according to the South China Morning Post.
Chad Elwartowski and his Thai partner Supranee Thepdet — who also goes by "Nadia Summergirl" — traded their careers as Bitcoin investors for what they thought would be a simpler life in the Andaman Sea, located in the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean.
The two moved into an oil rig-like structure approximately 14 nautical miles off the coast of the island of Phuket and lived there for several weeks before Thai authorities raided their home.
Thailand's navy said the couple violated the country's sovereignty and police have charged the couple under article 119 of the Thai Criminal Code, which punishes acts that threaten a state's independence with life imprisonment or death.
Elwartowski and Thepdet left their makeshift home before police arrived and are now in hiding.
In a defensive Facebook post, Elwartowski claimed that he and his girlfriend were simply promoting their unique lifestyle and had nothing to do with the structure's construction. He said he had anticipated that Thai authorities would have an issue with his and Thepdet's decision to move in.
"This is ridiculous," he wrote. "We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed."
Elwartowski and Thepdet are followers of the "seasteading" movement, which, as the Seasteading Institute notes, encourages people to "look for cost-reducing solutions within the territorial waters of a host nation, while still remaining dedicated to the goal of obtaining political autonomy for governmental experiments."
Elwartowski insisted on Facebook, however, that he and Thepdet did not mean to challenge Thailand's self-rule by moving into their controversial home.
"We never had any ill intentions and I even state plainly several times that I would not want to be citizen of any seastead nation that would have me," he wrote. "We were hoping to bring tourism to Phuket with an underwater restaurant, floating hotels and medical research, tech jobs, etc."
Thai authorities and officials maintain the structure was within their country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone and have revoked Elwartowski's visa. They did not specify whether they would pursue the death penalty against him and Thepdet.
"I urge them to get a lawyer to fight this case," Supoj Rodruang Na Nongkhai, Phuket's deputy provincial governor, told Reuters on Friday. "Thailand will proceed with everything according to the law. We are not threatening them."
The controversy comes just a few weeks after Thailand announced that those who took selfies at a popular airport beach in Phuket could also face the death penalty for distracting pilots.