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Vietnamese dissident poet Nguyen Chi Thien dies in Southern California at age 73

A Vietnamese dissident poet who spent nearly 30 years in communist prisons in his native country has died after a long bout of lung illness.

Close friend Hanh Thang-Thai says 73-year-old Nguyen Chi Thien (noo-WIN' chee thin) died Tuesday after spending several days in a Southern California hospital.

Thien first went to prison in 1960, after telling Vietnamese high school students that, contrary to their textbooks, the end of World War II was not the result of a Soviet attack, but rather U.S. nuclear attacks in Japan.

In 1977, he was released from prison long enough to write down poems he had memorized in captivity, a manuscript that became known as "Flowers of Hell." He was promptly sent back to prison.

He won the International Poetry Award in Rotterdam in 1985.

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