* Floodwater enters industrial estate east of Bangkok
* Estate operator says has contingency plan
* More than 3 million people living in 28 Thai provinces
By Amy Sawitta Lefevre
BANGKOK, Oct 8 Floodwater has breached an
industrial estate to the east of the Thai capital, stirring
fears that foreign and Thai companies face a repeat of the
devastation suffered in 2011, but the estate's operator said
water levels were manageable.
Thailand is the world's largest producer of hard-disk drives
and a big supplier of electronic components and car parts.
Flooding in 2011 killed more than 800 people and caused
major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth to just
0.1 percent. Global firms, including Apple Inc and
Toyota Motor Corp, also faced supply disruptions.
Amata Corporation, Thailand's biggest industrial
estate developer, said its industrial park in Chonburi province,
114 km (71 miles) east of Bangkok, was operating normally,
despite minor flooding.
Chief Executive Wikrom Krommadit said on Tuesday that water
up to a height of 15 cm (6 inches) had entered the park and
accumulated in three areas, but had not hit operations.
"Water levels in the park are stable and all our factories
are working as normal," Wikrom told Reuters. "If the situation
gets worse, we plan to divide the park in two sections to build
a temporary flood way to allow water to flow through."
He said it was the first time floods had hit the Amata
Nakorn estate, spread over 3,020 hectares (7,459 acres) and home
to several companies producing parts for Japanese automakers.
Nearly half the factories there hail from Japan.
Authorities say the floodwater is moving in a different
direction from that in 2011, when water flowed towards Bangkok,
the capital, from Thailand's north.
"It is heading towards eastern provinces, so there's a
chance that industrial parks that were not hit last time could
face flooding this time around," said Chartchai Promlert, chief
of Thailand's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
Floods this year have affected 28 out of 77 Thai provinces
and 36 people have been killed, the department says, with more
than 3 million people affected since July.
Toyota is weighing up risk-management strategies for one of
its three assembly plants in Thailand, the Ban Pho facility, in
Chachoengsao province to the east of Bangkok, a spokesman for
the Japanese auto maker told Reuters.
"Ban Pho is in an at-risk area at the moment, but we believe
the plant will be spared from flooding," he said.
Flooding in 2011 swamped seven industrial estates in
Thailand's central region, but many of the estates hit then say
they are better prepared this time.
Rojana Industrial Park PCL said none of its three
industrial estates had been affected by flooding this year.
"We're concerned, but we have built concrete barriers up to
7 m. high around our estates and we have hired a specialist
water management company to update us on weather patterns," park
director Amara Charoengitwattanagun told Reuters.
The firm's industrial park in Ayutthaya province, 70 km (45
miles) from Bangkok, was flooded in 2011, forcing the temporary
closure of nearly 200 factories, including one run by Japanese
car maker Honda Motor Co Ltd.
Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk said he was confident
that industrial estates swamped by floodwater in 2011 would not
be affected, partly because rain so far has been less heavy.
"Earthen dykes are in place at estates in Ayutthaya and
Pathum Thani province and they have built concrete barriers
higher than peak water levels in 2011, but we're not expecting
nearly as much water," Prasert said.
Although floods have affected the major rice-growing region
of Isaan in northeast Thailand, there has been no official data
yet about the extent of damage to the major crop.
"Rice damage in the northeast is expected to be bigger than
in well-protected areas in the central rice bowl of the
country," Deputy Commerce Minister Yanyong Puangrach told