KHON KAEN – A military court in Khon Kaen yesterday accepted a case against organizers and observers of a forum in 2016 accused of violating the junta’s restriction on public gatherings.

The 23rd Military Circle Court will hear the case against eight activists charged with violating the military government’s ban on public gathering of more than five people. The defendants were charged last year in July at a university forum ahead of the August 7th referendum on the new constitution.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison or a fine of 10,000 baht (about $300 US).

Five activists and two employees of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights will be trialed by a Khon Kaen military court for breaching the military’s government’s restriction of public gatherings at a public forum last year.

One of the accused, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or ‘Pai Dao Din’, a well-known student activists, is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for sharing an online article deemed offensive to the new king. Jatupat did not attend the hearing.

The accused present at the hearing were Chattai Noiunsaen, Phanuphong Sitananuwut, Chattamongkon Janchiewchan, Narongrit Upajan, Nattaporn Athan and two observers at the forum from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Duangtip Karnrit and Niranut Niamsap.

Another prominent activist charged, Rangsiman Rome, did not appear in court. He told Thai Lawyers for Human Rights that he does not recognize the legitimacy of the military government’s orders.

The court granted the other seven defendants’ unconditional bail for a bond of 10,000 baht per person. The next hearing is scheduled for 21 December. In the afternoon, the defendants were transported in handcuffs to two different prisons. They were freed on bail in the early evening.

The day before the court hearing, the seven defendants had asked for donations for bail bonds online and received an amount of 45,000 baht. They promised to return the money to their supporters at the at end of the trial

A case against two prominent red shirt activists was withdrawn on condition they submit to a military-sponsored “reconciliation training.” Khon Kaen University assistant professor Panawadee Tontisirin and her husband, former Pheu Thai Party List MP Cherdchai Tantirin, were charged last year. They agreed to attend what the junta calls “ “attitude adjustment” sessions for up to seven days, according to Article 12 of the junta’s Order 3/2558.

Ms. Panawadee told The Isaan Record that she did commit to any wrongdoing. But she and her husband chose not to fight the case and accept the court’s proposal because she wanted to see reconciliation in society and avoid any more trouble.

According to a report from Thai Lawyers For Human Rights, several northeastern activists have been prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech between May 2014 and September 2015. In the same period, 445 civilians were trialed in military courts in the region. Hundreds of activists were unofficially summoned to report themselves to the authorities.