BANGKOK: An American bitcoin investor could face the death penalty after Thailand’s navy accused him of violating the country’s sovereignty by building a “seastead” home off the coast, which he insisted was simply in pursuit of a vision of “freedom”.
Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend Supranee Thepdet, known as “Bitcoin Girl Thailand”, are facing charges of threatening the kingdom’s independence after the authorities found their ocean-based home about 12 nautical miles from shore.
But Elwartowski said their home was 13 nautical miles out, which he said is just outside Thailand’s territorial waters.
An official complaint was filed at a Phuket police station, police colonel Nikorn Somsuk confirmed.
“The navy and its team... found a concrete tank floating on the sea but there was no one on it,” Nikorn said. “So they filed a charge citing criminal code article 119.”
If they are officially charged and found guilty, the maximum sentence Elwartowski and Supranee could face is the death penalty.
Nikorn said the navy would have to meet provincial officials “to consider what to do next”.
Elwartowski, who worked as a software engineer for the US military in Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea, said he and Supranee just wanted to live somewhere free.
“I like the idea of being able to vote with your home. If you don’t like how your community is being run, you just float to a new one,” he said.
The bitcoin-rich couple are part of Ocean Builders, a community of entrepreneurs who aim to build permanent homes in waters outside of government territory. — AFP