Chad Elwartowski, an American Bitcoin trader, may be facing the death penalty in Thailand after his “seasteadding” 15 miles off the coast of Thailand got him in trouble with authorities. He was living in his own self-proclaimed nation, which was essentially just a floating house out in the ocean. Here’s what you need to know about Elwartowski.
1. Chad Elwartowski & His Girlfriend Declared Their Autonomy on Social Media While Living in a Cabin 15 Miles from the Thai Coast
Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Thai native Nadia Supranee Thepdet, were living in what was essentially just a floating house 15 miles off the coast of Thailand. They were living there to avoid jurisdiction by the Thai government, CNBC reported.
They had declared their autonomy on social media, saying they were living outside the jurisdiction of any countries or courts. (Supranee Thepdet also goes by the name Nadia Summergirl, Sky News noted.)
Here are photos of where they were living and what the inside of the sea cabin looked like, from a video by Seasteading.
And after they moved in, shared by The Seasteading Institute:
In a statement, Elwartowski said: “This is ridiculous… we lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed. 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. I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government.”
The couple had built the home to test the idea of creating a floating community on international waters, Business Insider shared. It was part of an experiment led by the Seasteading Institute, which is backed by Thiel.
Elwartowski is a member of Ocean Builders, a community of entrepreneurs who “seastead” like he was and seek to live outside of government regulation. They helped fund his floating cabin, CNBC reported. Peter Thiel has given $1.7 million to The Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit thinktank devoted to seasteading.
2. They May Face the Death Penalty for ‘Deteriorating Thailand’s Independence’
Now they could face the death penalty for “deteriorating Thailand’s independence,” CNBC noted. Elwartowski’s visa was revoked and the couple was charged with violating Thai sovereignty. The penalty for the charges could be as high as death or a life sentence.
Their home was on top of an oil-rig structure about 15 miles off the coast and technically in international waters, Daily Beast shared. They had just moved there earlier this year, but Thailand says they weren’t far enough off the coast.
Patri Friedman, founder of the Seasteading Institute, said that 12 nautical miles off the coast isn’t “the highs” but is still part of the Contiguous Zone where a state still has many rights.
3. Elwartowski & Thepdet Are in Hiding & Have Not Been Detained. A Worried Message He Posted on Facebook Is Now Unavailable.
Thailand’s Navy dismantled the floating cabin (called a seastead) and brought it back to shore.
Neither Elwartowski nor his girlfriend, Thepdet, have been detained yet, CNBC reported. They received a tip that Thailand planned to dismantle their sea cabin and possibly press charges, so they left, went into hiding, and haven’t been found. Authorities believe they are somewhere in Thailand.
Elwartowski posted a worried message on Facebook on April 18, but it’s now listed as “unavailable,” although the replies can still be read. Facebook says the content isn’t available because the owner either changed the privacy settings or the post was deleted. A story by Detroit Free Press reveals what part of the message read. It explained how the situation came to pass and asked for help. The message began: “PLEASE SHARE THIS POST OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT…” Elwartowski then said they were on the run from the Thai government that “wants us killed.” He said that he and Nadia were safe, but he worried about what would happen to his possessions, including 20 years of collected postcards. He wrote: “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.”
The last visible post by Elwartowski is a sad goodbye to the freedom he had:
4. Elwartowski Retired from a Career in IT & Has Five Siblings. Much of His Family Lives in Michigan & He’s a Libertarian.
According to his Facebook, Chad Elwartowski was a systems analyst with General Dynamics Information Technology before becoming a seasteader. He’s now retired. He also worked as a computer architect with Leidos, a computer systems engineer with SAIC, and he studied IT at Florida Institute of Technology.
Elwartowski is the youngest of six, Detroit Free Press shared, and grew up in Tecumseh. He graduated from Tecumseh High and Michigan State. He played saxophone and was in jazz bands in high school and had a lot of friends. As an adult, he made a lot of money as an early adopter of Bitcoin, his sister Delynne Elwartowski told Detroit Free Press. Delynne lives in Noblesville, Indiana.
His sister wrote on Facebook: “Lighting a candle until my brother comes home safely. Many have asked what they can do/ how can they help. Unfortunately we have found that all we can do now is pray… so I ask that you all join us in continuing to pray for their safety and safe return home.”
Delynne told Detroit Free Press that her brother is a “pure libertarian.” She said, “He has no ill will toward anybody. He thought he was doing a good thing.” She said she has no idea where he is, but he’s safe “for now.”
Elwartowski started a page on the Facebook alternative MeWe, but never posted there.
5. Elwartowski’s Girlfriend, Nadia Supranee Thepdet, Is from Thailand and Used to Run a Cosmetics Business
According to her Facebook, his girlfriend Nadia Supranee Thepdet (who also goes by Bitcoin Girl Thailand) lives in Puket, Phuket, Thailand. It seems that the majority of her Facebook profile is dedicated to promoting Bitcoin.
On her Facebook, she describes herself as a “Bitcoin expert, Trader, Chef, seastead Pioneer, Nature conservation volunteer.”
She and Chad have been dating for awhile. His Facebook has many photos of the couple together, dating back to 2017. He was married once before and according to his Facebook, his first wife passed away. But his new life with Nadia seems full of joy and adventure, according to his Facebook posts.
Nadia hasn’t posted to her Instagram since April 8. She also has a website called BitcoinGirlThailand but hasn’t updated the site since March 4.
Thepdet also manages a cosmetics business called Vanilla Cosmetic by Nadia. The bulk of that page is now dedicated to Bitcoin and sharing about their seasteading project.
Thepdet and Elwartowski’s family and friends hope they are OK and the legal issues are able to be resolved soon.