Sun, Aug 05, 2007 - Page 3 News List

`Rice bomber' gives explanation for his actions in new book

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

"I have been seeking, seeking a window opened by God that can lead to a promising future for farmers and seeking a pathway that can offer hope for disadvantaged children," reads Rice is Not a Bomb, a book written in semi-autobiographical style by Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), also known as the "rice bomber."

The book includes more than 100 letters written by Yang to Wu Yin-ning (吳音寧), a freelance writer based in Changhua County, during his incarceration.

In the letters, Yang describes the motivation behind his year-long bombing campaign that led to his arrest.

The book also includes two letters written by Yang to friends and the public following his release from jail after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) granted him a pardon on June 21.

In those two letters, Yang calls for greater care for the disadvantaged -- particularly farmers and children -- and expresses his gratitude for those who appealed for his pardon.

Yang was sentenced in 2005 to seven-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of NT$100,000 (US$3,000) for planting 17 explosive devices in public places around Taipei over a one-year period.

He turned himself in on Nov. 26, 2004.

Describing himself as an opponent of the government's rice import policy, Yang added small amounts of rice to his homemade explosives -- hence the nickname.

Nobody was injured during the year-long bombing campaign.

"What kind of social structure do we have that has made elderly farmers' desires to lead a peaceful life in their rural towns in the company of their children and grandchildren become a luxury and an impossible dream?" Yang asks in the book.

Growing up in a Changhua farming community, Yang said he had witnessed the decline of agriculture in rural Taiwan.

"I have a deep emotional affinity with rural elders who are living below the subsistence level after imported rice and other produce eroded the market share of locally grown crops," Yang writes. "It is against this backdrop that I had to resort to means available to a disadvantaged individual like me to express the grievances of farmers."

Yang also writes about meeting a teenage boy selling coconuts on a street in Hualien City with a schoolbag on his back.

"I stopped cycling and asked him whether he would mind eating a meal with me. The young boy told me that he had to choose between going to school or making a living. The encounter let me see clearly the predicament of those living at the bottom of society," Yang writes, claiming that the boy later died at his home as he could not afford to see a doctor.

The episode reinforced his determination to stand up for farmers and the disadvantaged, Yang writes.

Admitting that he has little knowledge of agriculture, Yang writes that he remembers crops of watermelons and carrots being given away because they could not fetch a reasonable price.

A truckload of cabbage was often sold for less than NT$500, he writes, adding that it was not uncommon for many grape vines to be chopped down when farmers' associations or wholesale dealers stopped buying the fruit.

"What I did was purely aimed at helping farmers and children. It is my humble hope that farmers can make a living on their own land and receive due respect, while children can go to school and eat their fill without losing dignity," Yang writes.

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