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The Burmese War was a Cold War conflict fought officially between 1974 and 1976, but which in reality began much earlier and did not find closure until the early 1980's. In 1974, the Chinese government assisted in the toppling of the powerful, French-backed Burmese government and instantly a violent civil war started. Funded with modern French chemical weapons, the rebels, known as Exiles, launched deadly attacks into Chinese territory and with foreign money, employed the forces of a violent private army from Cambodia and Siam known as the Southeast Asian Mercenary Army (SEAMA).
The war ended with the Chinese detonation of nuclear weapons at the village of Pansourdan in western Burma and a military base located at the industrial city of Magway, killing anywhere upwards 150,000 people, most of whom were civilians, in December of 1976. The Chinese also approved the deployment of nuclear weapons against the Exile-held cities of Monywa and Mergui but never dropped them, and attempted a nuclear strike against a SEAMA base just within the borders of Vietnam, but the bomb failed to explode and is known colloquially as "the Big Dud." Following the eradication of their leadership at Pansourdan and the deaths of an estimated 75,000 soldiers at Magway, the Exiles agreed to a ceasefire after several months of sporadic, disorganized fighting in early 1977.
About fifteen million people are estimated to have died in Indochina during the conflict, most of them in Burma proper or in the frontier of neighbors Siam and Bengal, as well as several hundred thousand deaths in Vietnam. Estimates of casualties on the Chinese side are at about one and a half million, many of them civilian. The war became indicative of later conflicts in Indochina during the 1980's and 1990's in which the borders between individual nations did not affect the locations of fighting, and few wars in history have had such a detrimental affect on the lives of civilians.
The war is notorious worldwide for its liberal use of chemical weapons against civilian and military targets within Burma as well as within China, Bengal and all of Indochina. The war is also noted as being the only instance of nuclear weapons being used against ground targets in a time of war - the only other instances were a detonation at sea as a show of force in the Black Sea War in 1959, and the detonation of two low-yield warheads in the upper atmosphere in 1988 during the Persian Gulf War to disrupt electronics systems.