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Ex-Thai PM eyes economic rebound after floods
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 2, 2012

Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday he expects the kingdom's economy to rebound in the first quarter of 2012 as firms increase output following last year's devastating floods.

Abhisit made his comments on a visit to Japan where he had been meeting industry leaders as part of a drive to reassure businesses thinking of fleeing the country as a result of the disaster.

Among those whose businesses suffered when heavy rains brought chaos to swathes of the country was car giant Honda, which was forced to suspended operations at one of its factories in October.

The plant in central Ayutthaya province lost more than 1,000 cars when they were submerged in the muddy waters that also swamped Bangkok, an image Abhisit said became "the symbol of the industrial damage from the flooding".

"I would say that the majority of companies have already resumed operations, many of them at the pre-crisis level," Abhisit told journalists in Tokyo.

"Yesterday at my meeting with Honda, they confirmed by the end of this month they will be back in operation. So we expect a quite strong rebound in the first quarter this year."

Honda said it plans to restart the Ayutthaya plant by the end of March and expects to have operations back to normal in early April.

Thailand suffered a double-digit contraction in the final three months of 2011, the sharpest on record, as the worst floods in half a century pummelled the nation's industrial sector.

The months-long floods took a heavy toll on Thailand's industrial heartland north of Bangkok, with many factories forced to close temporarily.

A recent survey showed almost one in 10 Japanese manufacturers with operations in Thailand now plans to relocate out of the kingdom.

Electronics makers were particularly hard hit, with more than half directly affected by the disaster, according to the poll of 1,345 companies by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Bangkok (JCCB).

The JCCB has urged the Thai government to speed up the implementation of a flood control plan.

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