Garment industry, Cambodia's largest foreign currency earner, reported a 20 percent rise in exports last year, according to the figures of the Ministry of Commerce on Monday. The Southeast Asian nation exported apparel products in equivalent to 5.53 billion U.S. dollars last year, up 20 percent from 4.61 billion U.S. dollars in a year earlier, the figures said. Garment products have been mostly sold to the United States and European countries, and some Asian countries, particularly Japan, China, and South Korea. Last year, apparel exports to the United States went up by 7.6 percent to 2.12 billion U.S. dollars, to Europe rose by 28 percent to 2 billion U.S. dollars, and to other countries increased by 32 percent to 1.41 billion U.S. dollars. Kem Rotha, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the growth was thanks to the increase in purchase orders and more investment in the garment sector. Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), warned that the industry would be affected this year if the six opposition-aligned trade unions still continued leading illegal protests to demand the government and the GMAC to double a minimum monthly wage in the industry to 160 U.S. dollars. Garment and shoe industry accounts for about 80 percent of the country's total exports. The sector comprises more than 900 factories with about 600,000 workers. The whole industry had closed for two weeks in late December and early January due to illegal protests to demand the pay rise. All factories reopened on Jan. 6 after the government issued a temporary ban on all forms of demonstrations following two violent clashes on Jan. 2 and 3 that left 4 protesters dead, 26 injured and 23 arrested.