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American Facing Charges for Threatening Thailand’s Sovereignty Over Sea-Steading Structure

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PHUKET – Thailand’s Deputy National Police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said on Friday that police have questioned American bitcoin investor who set up a sea-steading structure off the coast of Phuket and is now facing criminal charges.

American Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend, Suprenee Thepdet, erected the sea-steading structure – inspired by the “sea-steading” movement – on February 2nd, about 12 nautical miles from Phuket’s mainland.

The Royal Thai Navy and Phuket Maritime personnel boarded the structure last Sunday, saying it violated the law and poses a navigational hazard.

Elwartowski had posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday that he and his partner were in hiding and feared for their lives, as they were being hunted down by the authorities. He later deleted the post. On Wednesday, Immigration police revoked his visa and put him on a blacklist.

The United States embassy in Bangkok is providing assistance to the two.

The US Embassy is aware of the reports that Thai authorities have charged Elwartowski, said Robert Post, its public affairs officer, on Friday.

“The embassy is providing all appropriate assistance and understands Elwartowski has engaged an attorney,” Post told The Nation Weekend.

Threatening Sovereignty

The couple is facing charges of threatening the Kingdom’s sovereignty following the boarding of the structure last weekend.

Phuket deputy governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai was preparing information to present to the embassy if it required further details. While Elwartowski has claimed that his waterborne home is outside Thailand’s maritime boundaries, the authorities have insisted that its existence violated Article 119 of the Criminal Code because Thailand’s territorial rights were disturbed.

According to law firm Siam Legal, Article 119 of the Criminal Code, which covers “intent to cause injury to the nation”, states: “Whoever does any act with intent to cause the country or any part thereof to descend under the sovereignty of any foreign state, or to deteriorate the independence of the state, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”

The authorities are entitled to prosecute the couple as the structure is within the Kingdom’s territory, Supoj said. “Harm was done because they had invited people to set up [additional] structures and, so far, 14 people [have shown an] interest to join them,” he said, referring to the sea-steading movement in which people seek to establish floating communities in international waters.

By The Nation