U.S.-Thai couple could face death penalty for living at sea

Would you like to live at sea under no rules or laws? Better carefully pick the location of your home.

April 18, 2019 20:08
1 minute read.
A seasteading design contest winner, initiated by the Seasteading Institute

A seasteading design contest winner, initiated by the Seasteading Institute. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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Chad Elwartowski from Michigan and his girlfriend Nadia Thepdet from Bangkok have gone into hiding after finding out they could face a death penalty for living off the shores of Thailand.

Elwartowski reportedly worked as a software engineer for the US military before becoming an investor in cryptocurrency Bitcoin, along with Thepdet.

The two released several videos on Youtube of their progress of building a floating home, called a seasteading, through the company “Ocean.Builders,” in which they have lived since February.

The debatable location of their seasteading could mean the couple may have threatened Thailand’s sovereignty, which is punishable by death.

The home was located 12 miles off the coast of Phuket, which could mean it was under Thailand’s jurisdiction, while Elwartowski insists the location was 13 miles off the coast, which would place it in international waters, thus making it legal.

Ocean Builders, the company who built their home, released a statement claiming that the couple did not build the home themselves and only lived in it, meaning they were in no way involved in designing the seasteading.

The couple is now hiding "in a fairly safe place," Elwartowski told AFP.

Elwartowski also wrote on his Facebook page “I was free for a moment. Probably the freest person in the world. It was glorious.”

The founder of the Seasteading Institute, which is a nonprofit think-tank promoting the creation of floating ocean cities, is Patri Friedman, grandson of Jewish American Nobel-prize winner Milton Friedman.

Friedman related to the couple’s incident in a Facebook post in which he expressed sympathy to the couple’s plight, yet he claimed that the location of their home was located at “the Contiguous Zone, where a state has many rights, several of which seem likely to pertain here.”

The idea of living off coasts and proclaiming the notion of a “Micronation,” has been done before even in Israel, as Eli and Rina Avivi lived off the Northern coast of Israel close to the border with Lebanon for half a century.

Avivi’s Micronation was named “Achzivland.” Eli, the "president" of Achzivland and uncle of Israeli actor Shai Avivi, died in 2018.

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