Owner of "seastead" off Phuket, Thailand and his girlfriend could face the death penalty.
Among the problems I see with this sort of activity:(CNN)An American bitcoin trader and his girlfriend could face the death penalty after they were accused of threatening Thailand's sovereignty by building and living in a "sea home" off the coast of Phuket.
Chad Elwartowski and his partner Nadia Supranee Thepdet have fled their home, built atop a platform around 12 miles off the coast of Phuket, and gone into hiding after authorities revoked the American's visa.
He had promoted "seasteads" on social media and claimed his home did not fall under the sovereignty of any country, which Thai authorities have said is untrue. He repeated the claim on Thursday, writing the home is "outside of Thailand territorial waters."
The couple could face life imprisonment or the death penalty under the country's Immigration Act, but authorities told CNN they are unaware if the pair are still in the country or its waters.
"Nadia and I are still safe," Elwartowski wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, adding he was unsure whether their home had been destroyed. "Whether it is still there or not does not matter much to me. I'm more concerned about Nadia being driven from her home country and her family. Her son is worried. I hope they can be reunited some day soon."
"It was my home," Elwartowski added. In an earlier post, he said the pair did not design or construct the home but worked with the company that did.
"As long as Nadia and I are able to live through this that is all that matters to us right now. We just want to live," he wrote.
Thailand's navy has said the pair are threatening the country's sovereignty. "By claiming they own a floating house and using social media tried to sell this kind of house, also they claimed that their house is not under any country's sovereignty, which is not true. And this could cause other people to misunderstand and it is threatening our national security," said Colonel Kataporn Kumthieng, the chief of Phuket's Immigration office.
He described the case as "urgent."
The Thai Navy had previously posted a video of the home on Facebook, writing that "the navy is required to resolve the problem."
Elwartowski had taken part in videos and podcasts promoting the use of "seasteads," frequently mentioning how he was unaffected by policy decisions and taxation laws set by governments.
The "seasteading" movement, which began in earnest in 2008 in California with the financial backing of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, has been likened to the phenomenon of micronations for its vision of establishing sovereign communities outside the control of existing states.
Ocean Builders, the company behind Elwartowski's seastead, said in a statement on its website that it had constructed the home, the first in what it hoped would be an opening round of 20 units. The couple were "volunteers excited about the prospect of living free", it added.
Insisting the six-meter platform was 13 nautical miles from Thailand and in international waters, the company accused the Thai authorities of acting as "judge jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead." It hoped to resolve the issue "diplomatically," it said.
The Seasteading Institute, the organization backed by Thiel, is currently in negotiations with the government of French Polynesia to build a floating city in a semi-autonomous "seazone" within its territorial waters.
Very few places on Earth aren't already claimed by one nation or another. Those places that aren't claimed tend to be either wildly inhospitable (Antarctica, extremely desolate like Bir Tawil). Hence the building of "seasteads" because international waters are basically the only places you can say "this is mine" without involving a government and still have a tolerable climate.
Be very sure you know where your "seastead" is located. Looks likes this guy wanted to be just outside Thai territory, presumably because they wanted to at least occasionally go back to civilization. Given that nations fight all out wars over where lines are drawn on a map individuals had better be pretty goddamned careful where they site their little havens. As noted, the Seasteading Insitute is in negotiations with the government of French Polynesia over locating some of their units - I'm guessing Mr. Elwartowski just went out and had his built without consulting with anyone about "hey, is this really outside Thai authority?"
You have no safety or security. A nearby government gets pissy about your new home? Good luck arguing with an actual navy. Not touched on in this instance is the fact that pirates are still a reality out there and if you aren't under the protection of a government you're basically a tasty slab of meat out on the savanna with everything from lions to hyenas to vultures circling your tender ass.
You know, if this guy and his gal had just set up housekeeping and shut the fuck up about it they probably could have done this and the Thai government would be unlikely to notice them, or care much if they did. Once you start saying "hey, build shit here and no government can touch or you tell you what to do!" the neighboring sovereign nations are going to start checking their maps and paying a lot more attention to you. One person doing this is an annoyance, a herd of people doing this and yes, a government is going to Do Something About It. If you're that first person and start making a lot of noise they aren't going to wait for another seastead, they're going to Do Something About It Now.
Going by this very incomplete list there are no guarantees. Looks like third-world countries, which might be appealing to various sorts of libertarians/anarchists due to money going further and perhaps perceived lack of effectiveness of their government, tend to be VERY serious about discouraging this sort of thing and dismantling/blowing up the "seasteads". You're actually more likely to get away with this next door to a major world power which is just going to laugh and not take you seriously because any time they want they can just crush you like a bug. Or maybe they'll laugh AND crush you like a bug.
The other thing these folks never seem to consider when building their libertarian paradise is that if you ARE out on the high seas and something bad happens you are fucked. Hurricane hits? Too bad - who the fuck cares about saving your ass? If you can't do it yourself you're fucked. Pirates invade? You're fucked. Infrastructure supplying power and water breaks down? Hope you have a working boat otherwise you're fucked. You wind up in a servant class instead among the people on top running the place? You're fucked.
Sure, you might come up with wonderful innovations and solutions with all that unfettered FREEDOM! but with no government and no police you could have all sorts of nasty things happen - like people brought there to work who wind up as more or less slaves. If there is theft or murder but no police... well, too bad if you're a victim. Rape? Tough shit, unless you can appeal to others to help you your just shit out of luck. Denied access to transport to leave? Too bad for you, but you chose to come so live with it, right?
I'm not thrilled with governments, either, but there are reasons they exist and are pretty much universal. The libertarian FREEDOM! notions are great... if YOU are on top. If you're on the bottom it sucks. Because where there is no law strongmen and bullies take over. Hell, that can happen even where there ARE governments and laws.