BANGKOK, Thailand -- A U.S. retired defense contractor with wartime
experience in Iraq and Afghanistan was on the run April 19 with his
bitcoin-savvy girlfriend, fearing Bangkok's military government will
execute them for living on a floating platform off Thailand's Phuket

"The Bangkok Post reported that Nadia and I were being accused of
breaking a Thai law that carries a life sentence or the death
penalty," Chad Elwartowski said in an interview conducted online.

"What is reported in the press in Thailand is usually what the
military wants reported. Even though the allegations are far off base,
we have to take seriously their intention to kill us."

The Thai navy reportedly demolished their floating residential pod
"without following any legal process," Mr. Elwartowski said.

"We have no reason to believe we would face any sort of fair trial."

He denied violating Thai laws including its territorial rights in the
Andaman Sea or "commercially extracting natural resources."

He offered to donate the anchored platform -- if it has not been
destroyed -- to a Thai university for marine engineering and biology

"In exchange they drop the charges."

Alternatively, the couple hoped to enter the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok
for asylum where "we could be married and so she can leave with me to

Mr. Elwartowski, 45, said he was a retired defense contractor born and
raised in Tecumseh, Michigan.

Starting in February, the couple spent a total of 10 to 20 nights
weathering occasional heavy rain and high waves during brief
on-and-off visits to the floating platform.

It was located "13 nautical miles from the closest exposed land, which
put us outside of Thailand's territorial waters."

Living in an artificial residence in the ocean is known as "seasteading."

Hotels and other venues have built residential pods, sometimes
underwater, within the territory of other nations. The American and
Thai were reportedly the world's first seasteaders in international

They were in their Phuket island home several days ago when their
legal situation deteriorated.

"Our contact warned us" that Thailand's navy considered their
platform's location in the Andaman Sea was problematic and they would
be arrested.

The Third Naval Area Command filed a police complaint on April 12
against Mr. Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee "Nadia
Summergirl" Thepdet, under the Criminal Code's Section 119, according
to the Bangkok Post.

"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," the Post reported on April 14.

"Chad's visa has now been revoked. His actions have impacted the
nation," Phuket Immigration Chief Lt. Col. Kathatorn Kumthien told The
Phuket News on 17 April.

"His name has been added to the immigration blacklist, he is banned
from staying in or re-entering Thailand. His right to stay in the
kingdom of Thailand has ended," Lt. Col. Kathatorn said.

"We believe he is still in Phuket. I am searching for him to talk with
him and to enforce to law."

Asked about his whereabouts during the interview, Mr. Elwartowski
replied: "We are trying to stay safe while our lawyer handles
discussion with the Thai government."

Mr. Elwartowski said he was previously a defense contractor in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea. His work included "simulations
of military radio networks...flight simulators [and] working with the
intelligence community."

He was based at Camp Slayer in Iraq during 2005-2006 and twice in
Afghanistan, 2011-2013 and 2017-2018, before retiring last year, he

His Facebook posts indicated he was at the main U.S. air force base at
Bagram, Afghanistan and included a photo of him next to an artillery
gun captioned with a joke about hunting Taliban forces.

"At Fort Bliss doing CRC preparing to go back to Afghanistan," he
wrote in a December 2016 post, referring to briefings at the
Continental United States Replacement Center in Texas.

Mr. Elwartowski is reportedly a volunteer seasteader promoting -- but
not funding -- Ocean Builders which is a small company constructing,
anchoring and offering to sell similar floating pods.

After Thailand's reaction, the company postponed plans to sell
"barebones" residential pods on April 15 at prices starting at

Fancier $200,000 modules would have included " a nice kitchen, water,
solar electric, etc.," the company said on its website.

"We are also not restricted by national firearm laws so we can protect
our seastead to the fullest extent possible from all would-be
thieves," it said.

Toilets empty into the "same place as whale and dolphin poop goes" but
garbage is to be bagged and dropped ashore.

"We understand that many people cannot buy a seastead and move their
whole lives to Thailand immediately," the company said, indicating
they planned to locate future pods in the area.

They suggested Mr. Elwartowski and his girlfriend could help new
purchasers "with property management."

"Chad and Nadia are safe for now but understand that Thailand is
currently being run by a military dictator. There will be no trial if
they are caught. They [Thailand] already demonstrated that by being
judge, jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead,"
Ocean Builders' (Monday) April 15 statement said.

"Seasteading needs to happen now as tyranny creeps ever more deeply
into our governments to the point that they are willing to hunt down a
couple of residents residing in a floating house in middle of

Ms. Supranee described herself on Facebook as a "bitcoin expert,
trader, chef, seastead pioneer, nature conservation volunteer" from

Their modern, white, hexagonal pod was about 20 feet in diameter and
could contain a bed, toilet, propane kitchen unit, fresh water
converter, wifi reception, LED lighting and other conveniences,
according to Mr. Elwartowski's posts.

The roof served as an outdoor deck topped with solar panels, supported
by a gasoline-powered generator.

A long, weighted cylinder served as an underwater anchor wide enough
for a person to walk down several internal levels below the water's

Illustrations of sleeker models showed the pod's circular wall
punctuated with portholes and a door leading to a narrow, walkable
deck orbiting the rim.