Ratsadonprasong Fund by the Siddhi-Issara Foundation
A fund for cash bail and fines in political cases related to the right to freedom of expression
To safeguard the people’s right to freedom of expression from being stripped away by the strategic and punitive use of the law to harass, detain, or imprison as if the accused were already convicted. To preserve the human dignity of the accused, in keeping with the basic legal principle of presumption of innocence prior to the final verdict.
Criteria for Support
The fund assists accused persons and defendants with posting cash bail and paying fines resulting from cases against their exercise of freedom of expression for political, social, and cultural change in favor of equality, rights to freedom, and human dignity.
The process begins with the notification of a potentially eligible case from a representing lawyer to the fund’s coordinator. If the fund determines that the case demonstrably falls within the stated criteria for support, a representative of the fund will be delegated the task of posting the bail or paying the fines as requested. The fund will then publish a written account of the fund’s movements with copies of the relevant receipts on the fund’s Facebook page to keep the donors informed.
This incarnation of the Ratsadonprasong Fund came into being on 7 January 2021 with the creation of the Facebook page “กองทุนราษฎรประสงค์” as the channel to provide updates and show receipts to the public. Chalita Bandhuwong and Ida Aroonwong were the joint holders and caretakers of the fund’s bank account. The money was, and continues to be, fundraised via direct deposits to the bank account. A starting amount was pooled in part from the remainder of donations to two earlier incarnations of the bail fund: first, a bank account opened in February 2018 by Chalita Bandhuwong and Ida Aroonwong to provide bail for those participating in a rally called “People Who Want Elections”; second, a bank account opened in the aftermath of the coup in 2014 by Ida Aroonwong, Arnon Nampa, and Weeranan Huadsri to provide bail in political cases more generally. Once the funds were merged into one, broader criteria for support were established to encompass both the movements after the 2014 coup and the numerous cases from rallies and protests since 2020.
The name memorializes the beginnings of the idea to organize pro bono lawyers as well as put together a bail fund for defendants in political lawsuits. It was 2010, in the aftermath of the crackdown on Red Shirt people’s protest at the Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok, when such a fund was first created. “Ratsadonprasong” was taken up as its name, both as a reminder of and a response to the massacre at Ratchaprasong. By supplanting ratcha, which means ‘king,’ with ratsadon, which means ‘people,’ the name translates to “the people’s will” or “requested by the people,” a phrasing meant to convey the powerful demonstration of popular will by way of fundraising campaigns to cover the costs of fighting lawsuits.
The ad-hoc, volunteer efforts of that time gradually went dormant until the coup in 2014. That year, an organization of lawyers for human rights was established in a professional capacity, all while the work of ensuring access to bail was not taken up by any organization. That work, therefore, continued by necessity in the form of an ad-hoc, volunteer-run fund without a name and without an organization—until the new wave of protests starting in 2020.
Sensing a kindred spirit in these new protests, the fund’s caretakers decided to bring back the name to make explicit the connection in spirit between the stand for popular will in 2010 and the willful protest of the people(’s party) since 2020.
Under the Foundation’s Care
In 2021, the caretakers of the Ratsadonprasong Fund began the process of registering a foundation under the name Siddhi-Issara Foundation. (Please see page “About Us” for further details.) After the foundation’s chartering in 2022, the fund’s bank account held by the two caretakers has been replaced by an account under the foundation, a legal entity that can better guarantee that the large amount of donations will be kept safe and remain in the public’s possession in the long run, regardless of the caretakers’ circumstances.
Furthermore, the volunteer-run operations, as they had been done, entailed that the caretakers must personally shoulder a range of expenses and risks, making it unsuitable for the next generation to take up the mantle. The establishment of a foundation makes the mission more sustainable by equipping the fund with the legal capacity to safeguard the donations and the institutional capacity to support the next generation as foundation staff.
Regardless of the change in legal status, the bank account of the Ratsadonprasong Fund will continue to operate strictly for the purposes of posting cash bail and paying fines. The expenses of running the foundation will be paid for by another account.