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Thailand’s authorities have put the capital Bangkok under curfew after red-shirt protest leaders surrendered to troops storming their barricades.

Some 20 fires have been burning across the city of 15 million and pockets of resistance remained, despite pleas from protest leaders to go home. Some 40 people have died since last week, with six killed including an Italian journalist yesterday. Fires were reported at the stock exchange, banks and a shopping mall.

In Bangkok, the main rally stage area was empty after the protest leaders’ surrender.

Before being led away, one protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, said from the stage: “I apologise to you all, but I don’t want any more losses. I am devastated too.”

Nattawut Saikua, another leader, said as he was being arrested: “Brothers and sisters, I’m sorry I cannot see you off the way I welcomed you all when you arrived here… Please return home.”

The leaders, labelled terrorists by the army, earlier urged supporters not to give up the fight for political change.Minutes after they surrendered, an eyewitness told Reuters news agency that three grenades exploded outside the main protest site, badly wounding two soldiers and a foreign journalist.

Defiant protesters attacked shops and property and masked men could be seen apparently looting. Protesters started a fire at the offices of a TV station, Channel 3, while staff were inside, said fire department officials.

At least 100 people were rescued from the TV station’s, the city’s fire rescue service said.

With the extent of the continuing resistance unclear, Kavee Chukitsakem, head of research at Kasikorn Securities, told Reuters: “The situation is worse than expected now and it’s very difficult to stop.

“After the red shirt leaders surrendered, things were out of control. It’s like insects flying around from one place to another, causing irritation.

“It’s going to be hard to quell this, and tonight is going to be very ominous with the media taken off air and the curfew in place. There will be chaos and a widespread crackdown can be expected.”

A curfew was extended to cover 23 Thai provinces as well as Bangkok on Wednesday night after the deadly army crackdown.Thailand’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) said in a statement it had “imposed the curfew in 23 more provinces from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am.”

The extension mainly covered the protesters’ heartland in the north and northeast of the kingdom, which has a total of 76 provinces.Anyone violating the curfew would be jailed for two years maximum or fined 40,000 baht (1,200 dollars) or both, but a government spokesman earlier said those who needed to travel should carry passports or ID and tickets.

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