Officials Say Deadly Red Numbers Only a Rumor

If you receive a telephone call that displays a red-colored number on your mobile phone, you will not die, government officials said Friday, contradicting a rumor that has been spreading around the country in recent days.

According to a version of the deadly-number rumor, which has been reported in a leading Khmer-language newspaper, those who answer calls from landline numbers that display in red will die. Another rumor says that international calls with red numbers can be deadly.

“It has been spread from one person to another—from Kampot to Phnom Penh,” said Tak Vantha, Sihanoukville Municipal police chief.

“I heard that if a call is answered there will be death,” Tak Vantha said. “No one has died,” he added.

Minister of Post and Tele­com­munications So Khun said Friday that with the election so close it’s not surprising that such a rumor has surfaced.

“It is normal so close to an election,” So Khun said. “This has made people feel unstable,” he said, adding that the source of the rumor has not been identified. He also denied that any red-colored numbers had appeared on telephones.

“We cannot accuse any party. Anyone can make that up. In a moment we will hear that fish will grow legs and run away,” he said.

Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth said the source of the rumor mongering would be discovered and prosecuted. “The inventor will face legal punishment,” he said.

Thought the motive of the creator is not yet known, Touch Naruth said the rumor was akin to the traditional belief in the power of witchcraft and sorcery.

Yusoff Zamri, CEO of Telekom Malaysia International Cambodia, which operates the 015 and 016 mobile phone network, said Friday that he hadn’t heard the rumor himself, but offered to help calm fears.

“If we can do something to dispel the rumor we will,” he said.                       

  (Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)


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