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Bitcoiners’ Seastead in Deep Trouble With Thai Government

A seastead off the coast of Thailand, home to an early bitcoin adopter, has run into trouble with local government. The Thai Navy boarded the structure Saturday, claiming it violates criminal law, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment. The owner claims that this floating home is located outside of Thailand’s maritime boundaries.

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Postpones Crypto Case at Government’s Request

Seastead Allegedly Violates Criminal Law

American early bitcoin adopter Chad Andrew Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend, Suprenee Thepdet aka Nadia Summergirl, helped launch a seastead on Feb. 2 off the coast of Phuket, Thailand. However, the Thai Navy boarded the structure Saturday and accuses the couple of breaching the country’s Criminal Code, Section 119.

Bitcoiners’ Seastead in Deep Trouble With Thai Government
The Thai Navy’s press conference about the seastead on Saturday.

According to Siam Legal international law firm, “Section 119: Intent to cause injury to the nation” states:

Whoever does any act with intent to cause the country or any part thereof to descend under the sovereignty of any foreign state, or to deteriorate the independence of the state, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.

Elwartowski, also known as Elwar in the Bitcointalk and Reddit Bitcoin communities since 2010, told Reason publication last month that “The team surrounding the project were early adopters of bitcoin, and with wealth acquired that way it has spent around $150,000″ to build the seastead. Ocean Builders, which consists of a team of entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading, built the structure. The startup is in the early stages of launching a production line that creates seasteads for others to anchor nearby. It is scheduled to start selling the first 20 floating homes Monday, April 15. At press time, 69 potential seasteaders have expressed interest to join Elwartowski. Last weekend a workshop was held at the seastead where he taught diving and other skills needed become seasteaders.

International Waters Claim

The company aimed to launch a new sovereign state by creating new land far enough offshore that it would be recognized as independent by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Those involved in the project claim that this seastead, which they named “XLII,” is located outside of Thai maritime territory, beyond the 12-mile sovereign territory claim. Their website describes:

We are just beyond 12 nautical miles from shore. Under international law this puts us just outside of the territorial waters of Thailand but within their 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone … This means that we are not subject to Thailand laws other than those that deal with their natural resources … and no interfering with their customs.

However, a source told the Bangkok Post that the claim that the seastead was outside Thai maritime territory is untrue, adding that the police are additionally investigating the Phuket-based Thai construction company responsible for building the platform for possible financial misconduct.

Bitcoiners’ Seastead in Deep Trouble With Thai Government
The seastead with a Thai Navy ship in the distance.

Local TV channel The Nation elaborated that “it is a violation of the sovereignty rights of Thailand that are beyond the boundaries of Article 56B and Article 60, paragraph 7 and paragraph 8 of the Sea Law Convention 1982.” The two sections of the U.N. maritime convention state that within the 200 nautical-mile range of a country, referred to as ‘the Exclusive Economic Zone,’ “the coastal state has jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this convention with regard to… the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures.”

Thai Authorities to Remove the Structure

Vice-Admiral Sittiporn Maskasem, commander of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, sent officers to the seastead Saturday, which they reported to be 15 nautical miles southeast of Racha Yai island, the Bangkok Post conveyed. Navy officers boarded the platform for inspection after failing to make radio contact with anyone on it. No one was home when the Navy boarded and the whereabouts of Elwartowski and Summergirl are unknown at press time.

Bitcoiners’ Seastead in Deep Trouble With Thai Government
The Thai Navy approaching the seastead.

The Phuket Marine Office is trying to contact the couple and the Navy has called on the harbor master in Phuket to remove the structure. The authorities seek immediate removal, citing that the lack of electricity around the structure could affect shipping routes, the Navy explained to local media.

A source further told the Bangkok Post that the structure would have a negative impact on the country’s shoreline, noting that “If it is left untouched, it will hinder ship navigation since the route is used for the transport of oil to Phuket.”

What do you think of this seastead and the action the Thai Navy is taking? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, the Nation TV, Mgr Online, and the Thai Navy.


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Tags in this story
Bitcoin, Breach, BTC, chad Elwartowski, criminal law, crypto, Cryptocurrencies, Cryptocurrency, Death, Digital Currency, early adopter, elwar, Law, life imprisonment, Navy, phuket, seastead, thai, thai government, thailand, Virtual Currency
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Kevin Helms

A student of Austrian Economics, Kevin found Bitcoin in 2011 and has been an evangelist ever since. His interests lie in Bitcoin security, open-source systems, network effects and the intersection between economics and cryptography.