Back to WebsiteNewsletter PreviewSign Up
This week our top story explains the ouster of Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister. We also have an interview with Thailand analyst Benjamin Zawacki about the Thailand-China-U.S. triangle.
The Diplomat Brief
July 13,
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explains the ouster of Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister. We also have an interview with Thailand analyst Benjamin Zawacki about the Thailand-China-U.S. triangle.
Story of the week
The Rajapaksa Regime Is Gone. What Next for Sri Lanka?


The Rajapaksa Regime Is Gone. What Next for Sri Lanka?

What Happened: On July 9, months of protests in Sri Lanka sparked by the ongoing economic crisis boiled over. Thousands of demonstrators, incensed by the lack of basic necessities like fuel, food, and medicine, stormed the presidential residence, as well as the official residence and private home of the prime minister. It was the final blow for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has agreed to resign by July 13, after nearly four months of defying the calls for “Gota” to “go home.”

Our Focus: The Rajapaksas have been the dominant force in Sri Lankan politics for two decades, but in the end that monopoly on power proved their undoing. P.K. Balachandran, an experienced Indian journalist based in Colombo, notes that Gotabaya “alienated the entire political class, including his own party men” by refusing to take expert advice and governing according to his own whims, backed by military officers he had advanced into key posts. The result was a perfect storm, where long-term economic woes were disastrously exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the president’s own damaging policy decisions. Gotabaya was elected on promises of security and stability, but by 2022, Sri Lankans were scrambling to find food and fuel, and the people had had enough. The change in government, however, will shake up an already protracted negotiating process for relief from the IMF.

What Comes Next: While the protesters’ key demand – for the Rajapaksas and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to leave office – has been achieved, “Sri Lanka’s future is now extremely uncertain,” writes Balachandran. “The formation of an all-party government will be difficult because the parties in parliament are an extremely disparate lot, each in stiff competition with the other. There is no standout leader to rally the various groups under one umbrella. Given the instability, the IMF package will be delayed, foreign aid may cease, and foreign investment will not come.” In other words, Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is far from over.

Read this story
Behind the News


Benjamin Zawacki

Benjamin Zawacki, author of the book “Thailand: Shifting Ground Between the U.S. and a Rising China,” on U.S. neglect of Thailand: “In contrast to an Obama who forgot about Thailand and a Trump who couldn’t find it, Biden seemed to purposely fly right over it… The recent flurry of U.S. activity in Thailand... should still be seen for what it is right now: reactive, late, and limited.”

Read the interview
This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

Japan Reels After Abe Assassination

Japan is still a nation in shock after the murder of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo during a campaign rally on July 8. It’s impossible to overstate Abe’s importance, both as the architect of Japan’s current geopolitical strategy and as the kingmaker within the ruling LDP. Just after Abe’s death his LDP racked up big gains in the July 10 upper house election – bringing Abe’s long-held dreams of constitutional change within reach.

Find out more

South Asia

Punjab’s By-elections Test Imran Khan’s Mettle

On July 17, Pakistan’s Punjab province will hold by-elections for vacant seats in the provincial assembly. It’s the first electoral test for Imran Khan and his PTI since he was forced out of office through a vote of no-confidence back in April. Will his electoral strategy of calling out the military for political interference pay off?

Find out more

Southeast Asia

Philippines Hails Landmark South China Sea Ruling

This week marks six years since a tribunal based at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague handed down its landmark South China Sea ruling. The award upheld most of the claims made in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013 and ruled that China’s expansive “nine-dash line” claim had no basis in international law. In honor of the event, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo issued a statement this week hailing the ruling, after six years in which then-President Rodrigo Duterte set it aside in favor of direct talks with Beijing. While new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sent mixed messages about how he plans to handle the South China Sea disputes, the statement likely signals a tougher line from Manila.

Find out more

Central Asia

A Win for Kazakhstan at Wimbledon?

Over the weekend, Elena Rybakina won the women’s singles final at Wimbledon, becoming the first tennis player under the Kazakh flag to reach such heights. But she, like other top-ranked Kazakh tennis players, isn’t actually from Kazakhstan.

Find out more
Visualizing APAC

Photo by Antonio Graceffo

Wrestlers at Suuj training camp, about 75 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, preparing to compete in Naadam.

See the full picture
Word of the Week



Mata hara, the Japanese neologism for “maternity harassment,” in which a woman who is pregnant or has given birth is subject to unfavorable treatment or abuse by staff or management.

Find out more
India’s Energy-Environment Catch-22

The Diplomat Magazine | July 2022

India’s Energy-Environment Catch-22

This month, our cover story examines India’s impossible situation: extreme weather means increased energy usage, forcing New Delhi to double-down on the high-emissions coal plants that helped cause the extreme weather to begin with. We also outline the diplomatic duel underway in the Pacific, as viewed from the Pacific Islands’ perspective, scrutinize what’s “new” in Kazakhstan after a constitutional change, and introduce Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Philippines’ new president and the son of its notorious former dictator. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

Read the Magazine
Diplomat Risk Intelligence