The case made international headlines after the Royal Thai Navy publicly announced that they were pursuing charges against the couple – Chad Elwartowski, 46, from Michigan, and his Thai partner Supranee “Nadia” Thepdet – under Section 119 of the Criminal Code, which relates to threats to national security.
Punishment under Section 119 may incur the death penalty.
At last report, in April, police confirmed that they had tracked the couple to the southern island of Tarutao, on the Malaysian border. (See story here.)
The couple have not been heard of since.
Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee are wanted for their involvement in the construction and installation of a “seastead” some 42km south of Phuket – a claim that the couple have repeatedly denied. They were just the people who lived on the prototype to give their assessment, Mr Elwartowski had told The Phuket News earlier. (See story here.)
The Royal Thai Navy deemed the “seastead” to be a threat to national security and confirmed that although the living platform and module was installed just outside the 12-nautical-mile limit for Thai territorial waters, it was within Thailand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as permitted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The seastead, which has now been removed from its site and brought back to Phuket, was the first of 20 more such structures that were to be built and installed at the location, Phuket Provincial Police Chief Maj Gen Wisan Panmanee explained at the time.
However, at a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday (June 21), Rear Admiral Therdkiat Onmuang, Director of the Phuket branch of the Internal Security Operations (Isoc), heard no news of bringing the couple to justice.
Of note, Isoc, of which there is a provincial office in every province in the country, serves as the political arm of the Thai military.
Present at the meeting yesterday, technically chaired by Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai, was an all-star cast of chiefs of Phuket government offices which have been identified as able to file charges against the couple.
It was the sixth time that the committee had met to discuss the case.
Among those present were the law-enforcement office and officials from the Wichit Police, the Customs Department, the Phuket Land Office, the Public Relations Department Phuket office, NBTC, the Phuket office of the Ministry of Industry, the Phuket Provincial Internal Security Office, the Phuket Fisheries Office, Phuket Public Works and Town & Country Planning representatives, Regional Marine Office representatives, officers from the Environment Office Region 15 based in Phuket and from the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM-Phuket).
Yet, leading the conference was Wanchat Choonhathanorm, a senior prosecutor at the Phuket's Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Mr Wanchat repeated the order for officials to follow up on any charges possible under their respective office’s area of responsibility.
“Please coordinate to charge those guilty of breaking the law and the people who support this man by bringing criminal charges filed through the Wichit Police,” Mr Wanchat said.
He called on the Phuket Immigration Office to enforce the immigration law and repeated to the Phuket Marine Office to enforce laws about submarine construction.
The Phuket office of the Ministry of Industry was called on to follow up in action against the boatyard where the seastead was built, and all offices involved in investigating financial affairs were ordered to investigate the “Ocean Builder” organisation – which is not based in Thailand, but is credited with organising the building of the seastead that was installed south of Phuket.
The Phuket Customs Office was asked to follow up any breaches in Customs laws, and the Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), which is responsible for the area where the seastead was built, was ordered to follow up on any contraventions of submarine construction laws.
The meeting was informed that Wichit Police has publicly requested for Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee to present themselves to have the charges under Section 119 formally brought to their attention.
However, neither of the two had presented themselves.
This was the second time that Wichit Police had formally requested the couple to present themselves, the meeting heard.
If the couple failed to present themselves, Wichit Police are to request the Phuket Provincial Court to issue additional warrants for their arrest.
This Wednesday (June 26), members of the investigative committee are to inspect the boatyard in Moo7 Mai Khao, Thalang, where the seastead was built for more information and further investigation, the meeting was told.
Meanwhile, according to Mr Elwartowski’s Facebook page, he married Nadia on Monday (June 17) and is still tracking the latest developments in cryptocurrencies, through which he made significant gains on investments in recent years.
He also posted about how Ocean Builders is working on a project similar to an underwater restaurant in Norway.
"Ocean Builders just wants to build it because they understand the potential of it. Imagine enjoying a day of SCUBA diving, having a great meal at the underwater restaurant and then retiring to your SeaBnB with the same view from your bed," he wrote.