By Kiatyot Suwannasit
Having either organised or joined the event, the activists were accused of breaking the junta’s ban of political gatherings of five or more people.
The event – titled “Talk for freedom: the constitution and Isaan people” – was held at Khon Kaen University a week before the referendum on the then-charter draft took place nationwide in August.
Having been approved by a majority of voters, the draft charter was later promulgated as the current 2017 Constitution.
However, the build-up to the referendum took place amid the junta’s tight legal enforcement against different opinions on the charter draft.
Prominent activist Rangsiman Rome is the only one of the nine wanted for organising – as well as attending – a political gathering of five or more people, while the remaining eight were in court today to provide testimony in their defence for participating in such an assembly.
Rangsiman was taken to Khon Kaen Special Correctional Institution, before being released shortly after on Bt10,000 bail, in relation to the main charge levelled against him.
He insisted after his release that he was determined to lead another assembly in Bangkok on Saturday as part of a months-long weekly series of gatherings calling for the ruling junta to organise a general election without further delay.
Tomorrow’s gathering will start at 4pm, with participants marching to the Army headquarters to “send signals” to the military regime.
Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or Pai Dao Din, who has been in jail since December 2016 for lese majeste for sharing a controversial BBC report online, was also among the accused activists who went to testify in court today.
As he stepped out of the prison van, his mother handed a bachelor’s degree certificate to Jatupat, who officially graduated from Khon Kaen University’s law faculty last December but was unable to join the commencement ceremony as he was behind bars.
Jatupat, his family, friends and Rangsiman took a photo opportunity together before going into court.
According to the nine activists’ lawyer Pawini Chumsri, Rangsiman’s case and those against the other eight could be merged into a single case, given the same grounds, if Rangsiman denied the main charge against him in his next testimony to the court, which is set for May.