An American bitcoin trader built a floating house off Thailand's coast in an attempt to gain independence. Authorities destroyed his home and he now faces the death penalty.

Seastead thai bitcoin skitch


A Royal Thai navy ship drags a floating home, lived in by Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend Supranee Thepdet, in the Andaman Sea, Thailand, on Monday.

  • An American bitcoin trader faces a possible death sentence in Thailand after authorities confiscated his floating home, which he built in an attempt to declare an autonomous seaborne community.
  • Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend Supranee Thepdet had been living in the so-called "seastead," but fled before authorities arrived.
  • According to Thai authorities, the pair claimed they were beyond the jurisdiction of Thailand. The country denies it and said their actions were "deteriorating Thailand's independence."
  • Elwartowski and Thepdet built the home to test the viability of creating a floating community in international waters, which would not be subject to the laws of any nation.
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An American bitcoin trader who built a floating home off the the coast of Thailand in an attempt to develop an autonomous seaborne community faces a possible death sentence, authorities say.

The floating home of Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend Supranee Thepdet was towed ashore by Thai authorities on Monday, and the couple have been accused of violating Thai sovereignty, Sky News reported.
That offense can carry either the death penalty or life in prison in Thailand. Elwartowski's Thai visa has also been revoked.

Read more: Silicon Valley's dream of a floating, isolated city might actually happen

"The couple announced on social media declaring their autonomy beyond the jurisdiction of any courts or law of any countries, including Thailand," Rear Admiral Vithanarat Kochaseni told reporters, according to Reuters.

"We see such action as deteriorating Thailand's independence," he said.

The couple built the floating home - located around 14 miles off the coast of holiday island Phuket - to test the viability of creating a floating community in international waters, which would not be subject to the laws of any nation.
Thai bitcoin trader seastead


Elwartowski and Thepdet's "seastead" in a photo taken on Monday. The couple's whereabouts are not currently known.


Thailand's Navy had been considering removing the home, sometimes referred to as a "seastead," for several days, but had concerns about removing it without destroying it, according to Reuters. 

Neither Elwartowski nor Thepdet were in the floating home when authorities arrived to remove it, Sky News reported.

Their whereabouts is currently unknown, although authorities say they are likely still in Thailand, the network added.

The couple has, however, issued a statement calling Thailand's pursuit of them "ridiculous."

"This is ridiculous ... we lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed," the pair said, according to Sky News. "We are still quite scared for our lives."

"We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways," they added.
"I [Elwartowski] believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government."

Read more: A pilot project for a new libertarian floating city will have 300 homes, its own government, and its own cryptocurrency

"You can demolish the seastead, but you can't demolish the knowledge that was gained"

Elwartowski and Thepdet's "seastead" was part of an experiment led by the Seastanding Institute, a group cofounded by Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire behind PayPal.

The organization describes itself as "a nonprofit think-tank promoting the creation of floating ocean cities as a revolutionary solution to some of the world's most pressing problems."

"They proved a single-family seastead can float stably in international waters for less than the cost of the average American home," Joe Quirk, the president of the Seasteading Institute said, according to Sky News."You can demolish the seastead, but you can't demolish the knowledge that was gained."

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