Fugitive American bitcoiner says seastead built outside Thai waters

Bitcoin evangelists and ‘seasteaders’ Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Thepdet. Original images: BitcoingirlThailand/Instagram

An American bitcoin investor on the run after being charged with a capital offense by Thai authorities says his home on the high seas was built inside international waters.

Chad Elwartowski, who along with his partner, Supranee Thepdet, has been accused of violating the kingdom’s sovereignty, wrote last night that GPS data proves their small home in the Andaman Sea was outside Thai territorial waters.

“This proves that the seastead was outside of Thailand territorial waters,” Elwartowski wrote online last night. “The law [Supranee] and I are accused of violating (which carries a death sentence) only applies in Thailand’s territory and within it’s [sic] territorial waters.”

Update: Thai Navy says it has begun removing seastead from Andaman

He linked to a post containing GPS data from a device attached to the structure, which indicates it is 25.9 kilometers southeast of Ko Racha Yai, well outside the territorial waters of Thailand.

Indeed, a marine-trafficking service that Elwartowski says is pinned to that GPS tracker shows the same location. The distance is equivalent to 14 nautical miles; international convention sets territorial waters no further than 12 nautical miles from shore.

The Royal Thai Navy filed a complaint against the couple this week with police on Phuket. Were they to be apprehended and found guilty, the maximum penalty is death.

Map showing distance of seastead from a small Thai island. Image: Ocean Builders/Google
Map showing distance of seastead from a small Thai island. Image: Ocean Builders/Google

The navy does not dispute the location of the white octagonal structure, Col. Nikorn Somsuk of Phuket police said Friday.

Nikorn said that while it was built outside of Thai territorial waters, the Navy says it still retains authority over the waters where it lies.

It is within what’s legally considered the nation’s economic zone, meaning Thailand has authority over economic activity including underwater resources and fishing.

The seastead structure is still there, Nikorn added, saying that Navy personnel were heading out to examine it today.

The couple, bitcoin evangelists who wanted to build a community at sea outside the authority of any government, have avoided arrest and not turned themselves in. As of press time, they have not been located, said Nikorn.

Additional reporting Teirra Kamolvattanavith

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Bitcoin couple face death penalty for ‘seasteading’ off Phuket

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