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Thai navy boards cabin of fugitive 'seasteaders' facing death penalty

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Thai navy boards cabin of fugitive 'seasteaders' facing death penalty

By Panu Wongcha-um

 

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A floating home, lived in by an American man and his Thai partner, is pictured in the Andaman Sea, off Phuket Island in Thailand, April 20, 2019. Picture taken April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai navy on Saturday boarded the floating cabin of a fugitive U.S. citizen and his Thai girlfriend, both prominent members of the "seasteading" movement who possibly face the death sentence for setting up their offshore home.

 

Thai authorities have revoked the visa of bitcoin trader Chad Elwartowski and charged him and his partner with violating Thai sovereignty by floating the cabin 14 nautical miles off the west coast of the Thai island of Phuket.

 

The cabin had been promoted as the world's first seastead by the group Ocean Builders, part of a movement to build floating communities beyond the bounds of nations as a way to explore alternative societies and governments.

 

"I was free for a moment. Probably the freest person in the world," Elwartowski posted on Facebook on April 13, days before the Thai navy raided his vessel.

 

Elwartowski, 46, was not on board having apparently fled after a surveillance plane flew overhead the previous day, along with his partner Supranee Thepdet, whose Facebook page describes her as a "Bitcoin expert, Trader, Chef, seastead Pioneer".

 

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said Elwartowski had engaged a lawyer and was being provided with appropriate assistance.

 

The Royal Thai Navy had planned on Saturday to seize the structure and tow it back to shore for use as evidence.

In a video posted last month detailing the construction of the floating home, Elwartowski said 20 more similar homes would be up for sale to form a community.

 

Elwartowski and Ocean Builders say the vessel was in international waters and beyond Thailand's jurisdiction. But Thai authorities say the structure is in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone and therefore a violation of its sovereignty.

 

A Thai navy task force on Saturday inspected the floating home as it prepared to tow the structure back to Phuket.

 

LEGAL PROCESS

 

"We will invite technical units and officials who have inspected the object to consult on the methods of towing to minimize damage," Captain Puchong Rodnikorn, chief of staff of the Operations Squadron of the Third Naval Area Command, said.

 

"Once the sea house reaches the shore, the owner of this house can come to inspect it, as well as come forward to the Thai authorities in order to prove themselves in the legal process," he said.

 

The navy said it had evidence that the floating home was built in a private boatyard in Phuket and the couple wanted to establish a "permanent settlement at sea beyond the sovereignty of nations by using a legal loophole".

 

It said the action "reveals the intention of disobeying the laws of Thailand ... and could lead to a creation of a new state within Thailand's territorial waters," adding this would undermine Thailand's national security as well as the economic and social interests of maritime nations.

 

In an email reply to Reuters, Elwartowski referred all questions to the Seasteading Institute and pointed to online statements from the Ocean Builders website.

 

Elwartowski and Supranee are members of Ocean Builders, which has denied they were planning to set up an independent state or "micro nation".

 

The group said the pair did not build, invest in or design the floating home themselves, but were "volunteers excited about the prospect of living free".

 

According to Ocean Builders, the concept of seasteading has been discussed for years but the cabin Elwartowski and Supranee lived on was the first attempt at living in what it described as international waters.

 

Other groups, such as the Seasteading Institute, which was originally backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, have sought to build floating cities with the cooperation of host nations.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-04-21

 

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, rooster59 said:

Elwartowski and Ocean Builders say the vessel was in international waters and beyond Thailand's jurisdiction. But Thai authorities say the structure is in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone

thailand does not have to try hard to be an international laughingstock, over and over

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This extreme threat, lacking in any diplomacy, is just one more blow to Thai tourism.

"Thai navy boards cabin of fugitive 'seasteaders' facing death penalty"

 

The above headline has been all over North American news for days, front and centre. Words like

"facing death penalty" would hardly be conducive to creating a warm and fuzzy feeling, as it relates to vacationing in Thailand. Perhaps a bit extreme. Why not hold back on the threat.

Noteworthy: There has been other negative stories of late. Gang them all together and it doesn't sound like a very safe place to visit.

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Thais showing their abject stupidity once again here. One has to think that this is purely some diversionary tactic by the authorities to show muscle. Pathetic!. 

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2 minutes ago, Tradewind777 said:

Thais showing their abject stupidity once again here. One has to think that this is purely some diversionary tactic by the authorities to show muscle. Pathetic!. 

Maybe justification as to why those new Chinese subs are required. Or maybe to justify why the army should stay in command.

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24 minutes ago, neeray said:

Maybe justification as to why those new Chinese subs are required. Or maybe to justify why the army should stay in command.

Or to show the Chinese how Thailand is powerful and independent.

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I think of all the different concerns the Thai Navy should spend their energy on and this seems to be a big issue to them—What about catching fishing boats using forced labor? What about stopping cargo  ships and boats that dump their trash into the sea? What about checking tourist boats for safety? What about checking to see the floating tsunami buoys are all operating out at sea???...so many other things to worry about. 

(Ok, just remove the floating obstacle and get on with your responsibilities.)

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43 minutes ago, Tradewind777 said:

Thais showing their abject stupidity once again here. One has to think that this is purely some diversionary tactic by the authorities to show muscle. Pathetic!. 

why no one think about the stupidity of such a structure , did this person or persons think about enter and leaving his "new" state. Looks like a prison to me. Entering Thailand, going out to Sea and than ????????????? Don't we have real problems at hand. Why he not do in front of US coast? Why always blame Thailand?

 

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Murder people and you're out on parole in a few years; anchor a 'bobber' off the coast of Thailand in International waters and face the Death Penalty. Talk about overkill.  

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death for taking selfies with airplanes taking off at phuket,

death for trying  a new lifestyle

 

A bit overboard i'd say

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Looks like the ideal place for an inactive post was BJ at home when the navy came knocking🤔

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10 minutes ago, phuketrichard said:

death for taking selfies with airplanes taking off at phuket,

death for trying  a new lifestyle

 

A bit overboard i'd say

Who has died for these activities?

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1 hour ago, neeray said:

Maybe justification as to why those new Chinese subs are required. Or maybe to justify why the army should stay in command.

I don't think the Navy has anything to do with the Army, they are (or were) two totally different factions. It wasn't that many years ago since the Thai Navy took the Thai PM hostage on one of its ships offshore and then the army came along and started blowing them out of the water- The PM survived, but the army were never really concerned with his safety, they just wanted to put the Navy in their place.

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I thought Thailand likes to be a hub, seasteading is a trending concept, Thailand should be embracing it, building and servicing seasteads. 

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