Army chief Narongphan Jitkaewtae did not say a word but used a gesture to show his stance on Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the prime minister is under intensifying pressure from student-led protesters to step down.
A retired soldier from the 31st Infantry Regiment was heard asking the army commander to take care of the prime minister but Gen Narongphan did not reply. Instead, he smiled and nodded.
The retired officer, who served in the same regiment as Gen Narongphan did, was attending a ceremony on Friday at the Royal Thai Army headquarters to mark the 110th anniversary of the passing of King Chulalongkorn. King Rama V was the founder of modern-day defence forces.
The army chief has been tightlipped since the anti-government protesters gave Gen Prayut, who is also the defence minister, until Saturday to quit and set free all detained activists.
Gen Narongphan refused to comment on politics when asked about the protests after the ceremony.
But he sternly warned students during his first briefing on Oct 6 after taking the top army position against touching the monarchy.
Despite Gen Prayut's pledge to take a step back, the country's political crisis has deepened after royalists began campaigns across the country over the past few days to counter the movements led by student activists, who also demand reform of the highest institution and a new charter, in addition to the resignation of the prime minister.
Warong Dechgitvigrom, the Thai Pakdee leader, leads a yellow-clad rally to protect the monarchy in the Phitsanulok municipality on Friday. (Photo by Chinnawat Singha)
They assembled in at least 10 provinces and vowed to protect the monarchy. The rallies in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, Phitsanulok and Khon Kaen were among the largest, drawing more than 1,000 each.
"Students have the right to protest but they must not attack the monarchy," said Thassani Srisopha, the leader of the women group in Muang district of Khon Kaen province.
Gen Prayut lifted the state of emergency on Thursday after he appeared on a nationally televised programme calling for all sides to take a step back and use Parliament to resolve the political differences.
Parliament will hold a special session on Monday.