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Union members protest on behalf of garment makers outside Cambodian emabassy

Date

Nipuni Wijewickrema

A protest outside the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, Deakin, by Unions ACT members. Click for more photos

Protest outside the Royal Embassy of Cambodia

Protest outside the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, Deakin, by Unions ACT members, regarding the death of clothing workers in Cambodia. Photo: Graham Tidy

Canberra's shoppers are being urged to think twice about buying products made in Cambodia following the shooting of garment workers protesting in Phnom Penh about low wages.

A small crowd of protesters gathered outside the Cambodian embassy in Canberra on Thursday to call for an end to the violence and for freedom for the 23 workers who were imprisoned while protesting for a rise in the minimum monthly wage of $90.32 to $112.91.

A letter calling for an end to the ongoing violence against the workers was hand delivered to the embassy. However, the ambassador was not present to receive the letter, leaving a visibly hesitant spokesman to collect the document on his behalf.

Cambodia media reported earlier this month five clothing workers were ''killed by AK-47 gunfire from military police'' at a protest in Phnom Penh.

At the protest outside the embassy, Michele O'Neil, national secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, voiced her disappointment at the locked gates, large police presence and lack of reply from the embassy.

Unions ACT Secretary Kim Sattler urged shoppers to hold large retailers like Big W, Kmart, Target and Pacific Brands responsible for stocking products made in Cambodia.

''If you [the retailers] choose to make your profits on the back of injured and dead workers, then you are responsible,'' she said.

Two of the crowd sat at sewing machines wearing bulletproof vests to pay tribute to the workers and officials killed in Phnom Penh. A large black coffin was also carried by the protesters to highlight the deaths.

The group called on the federal government to add diplomatic pressure to free the 23 imprisoned workers.

Protestors asked where Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was, to which one in the crowd replied, ''buying clothes.''

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