A pirate’s life ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be: A bitcoin couple is sought by Thai authorities after trying to make a lawless, tax-free home on the sea outside Phuket island. If convicted, the duo face a potential death penalty for violating Thailand’s sovereignty.
But Chad Elwartowski, a US citizen, and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee “Nadia Summergirl” Thepdet, had already fled the offshore cabin by the time Thai navy personnel arrived at it today (April 20).
“I was free for a moment. Probably the freest person in the world,” Elwartowski posted later on Facebook.
The duo said the cabin, built by an outfit called Ocean Builders, was floating in international waters and therefore without jurisdiction.
Thailand, however, said the structure threatened its sovereignty and plans to tow it to shore. It also revoked Elwartowski’s visa.
The cabin was situated within Thailand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but not its territorial sea. (Here’s the location on Google Maps.) Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (pdf), to which Thailand is a party, an EEZ extends 200 nautical miles from a nation’s coastline. Within it, a state has exclusive rights to natural resources such as fish and oil but does not have full sovereignty. It does have the latter within its territorial waters, which extend out 12 nautical miles from the shore.
Elwartowski appears in a YouTube documentary put out in February by the Seasteading Institute, an organization that seeks to establish extrajudicial floating communities on the seas. One of its co-founders is Peter Thiel, a billionaire libertarian who also co-founded PayPal.
Called The First Seasteaders, the four-part documentary includes shots of the bitcoin-funded floating cabin that Elwartowski and Supranee briefly inhabited and testimonials from likeminded individuals expressing concerns about big government, education, innovation, and property values.
Elwartowski is introduced in Part 1 as a “retired bitcoin investor” (at the 3:38 mark):
In Part 4, he says that (video, at 1:30) current governments “have a monopoly on land, but they don’t have a monopoly on sea.”
Apparently Thailand has other thoughts.