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Don Duong, a Vietnamese actor who felt compelled to leave the country after the army newspaper labeled him a traitor for taking roles in American films, died Thursday, Dec. 8, of heart failure and a brain hemorrhage in San Francisco. He was 55.

After Duong appeared with Patrick Swayze in Timothy Linh Bui’s 2001 drama “Green Dragon,” about Vietnamese refugees in the U.S., and in the 2002 Mel Gibson vehicle “We Were Soldiers,” a Vietnam war epic depicting the first major battle involving American forces and shot entirely in the U.S., the actor drew the scorn of the military, official media and other actors in Vietnam.

The Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People’s Army) daily newspaper called Duong’s actions “unforgivable” and said the “conscience-seller and traitor must be strictly disciplined,” while film director Duong Minh Dau said the actor had insulted Vietnam by “turning his back on his country and his people,” according to the BBC.

The handsome Duong had many female fans in the country, but he nevertheless departed in 2003 for the U.S., where he subsequently became a citizen. Vietnamese authorities denied him a visa for a return visit; permission was granted this year, but he was unable to make the trip before he died.

Duong appeared in director Tony Bui’s “Three Seasons” in 1999.