The Thai government is reportedly demolishing a seastead that briefly appeared off the coast of Phuket.
According to the Bangkok Post, the Thai government thinks the act of floating around just outside their 12-mile coastal zone breaches “Section 119 of Criminal Code. The section concerns any acts that cause the country or parts of it to fall under the sovereignty of a foreign state or deterioration of the state’s independence. It is punishable by death or life imprisonment.”
Chad Elwartowski, one of the seastead’s two former inhabitants, writes in a Facebook post: “This is ridiculous. We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.” The “wants us killed” likely refers to that potential punishment for violating Section 119.
“We had to go underground because our contact warned us before this came out,” Elwartowski adds. He also insists that he and his Thai companion Nadia Summergirl were merely tenants of the seastead and were not responsible for designing or building or placing it directly.
“We were hoping to bring tourism to Phuket with an underwater restaurant, floating hotels and medical research, tech jobs, etc,” he writes. “We had 3 wealthy entrepreneurs in the past week tell us they were coming to live in Phuket because they were excited about the project. We love Thailand. Nadia is a proud Thai. She is a proud Buddhist who does not support violence. I am a pacifist who would not harm a fly.”
Elwartowski’s post calls for legal help in negotiating with the Thai government regarding any possible punishment he and Summergirl might face.
“We just wanted to be free,” he writes. “If just for one day.”
Ocean Builders’ post on the crackdown says that the seastead is “in the process of being demolished by the Thai navy” and reiterates that although “Chad and Nadia are safe for now…understand that Thailand is currently being run by a military dictator. There will be no trial if they are caught. They already demonstrated that by being judge jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead.”
The Thai government apparently claims that the seastead was a hazard to shipping lanes. Ocean Builders’ response: “The seastead is 6 meters wide. It has a very bright anchor beacon and has a registered AIS beacon which can be detected by any boat with any sort of navigation in the vicinity.” The group further says that the seastead was in a “heavy fishing area with many many fishing boats trawling the water there daily. The fishing boat captains used to wave at Nadia and Chad as they passed by. They were in no way bothered by the floating home. The seastead takes up less space in the shipping lane than a fishing boat.”
Plans to sell and build new seasteads around Thailand are on hold. Elwartowski has told me in the past that by his understanding, the law did not require them to get the Thai government’s permission to be where they were doing what they did. Apparently the Thai government disagrees.
Patri Friedman, founder of the Seasteading Institute and co-author of the book Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the Environment, Enrich the Poor, Cure the Sick, and Liberate Humanity from Politicians, has written a Facebook post describing the mistakes he feels Elwartowski’s team made. While their location was 12 nautical miles out from Thailand, he notes, it is still in what is legally considered that country’s “‘Contiguous Zone,’ where a state has many rights, several of which seem likely to pertain here.” He adds that even being 200 miles from land does not necessarily create “a magical realm of freedom where you can just plant a flag and be an independent polity. There are many rules and regulations that apply—including the need to plug into international law through the flagging system (for a vessel) or coastal state approval (for a fixed structure).”
Friedman also writes that anyone trying that strategy needs to be aware they would be outside all human systems of legal rights, with “ZERO rights, other than what you yourself can enforce with your diplomatic, economic, and military power, against anyone (like a nation-state) who you bother in any way.”
Until seasteading “is big enough to change the system,” Friedman concludes, “our beliefs about what international law should be, our imagined individual rights, our perception that the nation-state cartel is unjust, are all irrelevant to present strategy. We need to acknowledge the system in which we’ll be working for the next 10-30 years, because only with a clear understanding of the present can we create our desired future.”