This past week, the Thai government noticed a seastead platform just outside its international waters:
US bitcoin trader and girlfriend could face death penalty over Thai 'seastead'
US national Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet (aka Nadia Summergirl), are facing charges of threatening the Kingdom's sovereignty. Last Sunday officials from the Royal Thai Navy and Phuket Maritime boarded the structure saying it violated Article 119 of the Criminal Code and also posed a navigational hazard.
The couple launched the 'Ocean Builders' seastead on February 2 off the coast of Phuket. The structure is located to the southeast of Koh Racha Yai, approximately 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometres) from the mainland.
Elwartowski has claimed that his seastead is outside Thailand's territorial waters, but Thai authorities insist that it violates Article 119 and challenges Thailand's territorial rights.
"The Royal Thai Navy has full authority and duty to protect national interest and marine sovereignty in the area," according to a Navy spokesperson. (from thetaiger.com)
Besides the disproportionate response, most telling is that Thailand has not even bothered to claim that the seastead is within their territorial waters. The couple previously inhabiting the seastead has fled in fear of their lives. Immediately Thailand shows what's really going on - whatever theory of state recognition you subscribe to, it all unfortunately returns to violence and the control of violence - control of it within your territory (the police, to maintain order) and outside your territory (the military, to prevent conquest.) If your country can't do those two things, it's not a country, and can't even convincingly pretend to be a country for long.
An objection: Luxembourg appears to be a viable state, yet can Luxembourg really claim to be able to repel an invasion from Germany or France? No, but very likely the blowback from other countries in the mutual-recognition-cartel that could harm Germany or France in some way is enough to stop them. Dictators often test the resolve of the cartel - most obviously, Putin by invading Crimea. Ukraine could not repel such an invasion, nor could they count on the cartel to come to their aid. So they can say that Crimea is still part of Ukraine, but de facto, it is part of Russia.
It's also worth pointing out that both Vietnam and China have built not seasteads, but whole new islands in international waters in the South China Sea. They and their allies have made a lot of noise about it, but aside from a few harassing passes by aircraft, there has been no full naval take-down of the settlements. Why? Because each country (or its allies) have the ability to hold their territory by inflicting and defend against violence, and as countries, are already in the mutual-recognition club. (Which is how they can have allies.)
In actuality, the Thai seastead isn't the first one. This is stated not to diminish the accomplishment, but rather to point out that there was another would-be sea-platform microstate in the 1960s, which was allowed by nearby nations to persist - though they may have been a bit nervous about this and hope to escape the UK's attention. Consequently we might ask - why don't seasteaders set up shop off the Somalian coast, most of which has no real government? For the obvious reasons of piracy! In this, it's obvious that seasteaders would like to benefit from the nearby state's violence control, without paying taxes or following other rules. (In fact, Sealand had difficulty controlling violence within its borders, or preventing criminal behavior, and the UK's hands-off attitude had a lot to do with that.) A critique of "fundamentalist" little-l libertarianism in general is that it's only conceivable when there is already a state regulating commons and controlling violence that guarantees social arrangements - and a very similar argument can be made for socialism in states already wealthy-by-capitalism, also an unsustainable strategy.
It's probably not good for anyone to dwell for too long on the basic fact that humans have never devised a system to organize themselves beyond the level of a family without a threat of violence, and it seems that theories of state recognition are designed to be legalistic dances that distract us from this brute fact. The political scientist who imagines a system that allows the non-violent creation of new states that can actually take natural precedence over force will go down as the greatest philosopher in history - along with the one that figures out a way besides physical space to determine which laws apply to which people, thus making a more truly voluntary society. I'm very sad for the couple that tried to seastead off of Thailand, but they were more than a little naive. For now, I predict that any seastead, even one far out in the middle of the ocean inarguably beyond international waters, will quickly find itself dismantled by a state navy unless they have sufficient outward directed force - and will not be able to control their internal violence without pre-emptive threats of violence.