Reeling from a series of blows that have seriously undermined its status and authority, the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion appears to be trying to rehabilitate itself by claiming support from the last government.

The committee, known by its Myanmar initials Ma Ba Tha, on July 25 released on social media a video of a statement made by the then-minister of religious affairs, U San Sint, at the All Order Sangha Conference in 2014, a national gathering of prominent Buddhist clerics.

U San Sint was recorded calling Ma Ba Tha a “reasonable organisation” that had assumed the task of observing and reviewing his functions in accordance with the objective set by Sasana, or religious council, of “cleansing, sustaining and developing”.

At that time, Ma Ba Tha chair Sayadaw Tilawka Bhivamsa, who was also known as Insein Ywama Sayadaw, and other leading members took part in the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee with the minister’s approval.

This apparent attempt to establish the legitimacy of the controversial organisation comes after it was effectively disowned, first by Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and then by the current religious affairs minister, Thura U Aung Ko, who warned the organisation of an “uncertain future” if it continued to spread hate speech to create conflicts between religions.

Ma Ba Tha now appears to want to show that it supports the official Sangha organisation and the ministry. In the video, U San Sint is seen to compare the two entities to “father and son, with respect between senior and junior”.

Ashin Tawpaka, a senior Ma Ba Tha member, said about the video, “This is a response from Ma Ba Tha. We uploaded the video to show our relationship in the past. We will continue to pursue our objectives and carry out our functions.” He said the Ma Ba Tha central committee would decide whether or not to accept any instructions from the Sangha.

However, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (Ma Ha Na) has officially disowned Ma Ba Tha. In a statement that became public on July 12, Ma Ha Na said no Sangha order had ever endorsed Ma Ba Tha’s legitimacy, or even referred to the organisation by name.

“Since the first to the fifth Sangha conventions of all Buddhist orders from 1980 to 2014, none had endorsed Ma Ba Tha’s legitimacy or even used the term ‘Ma Ba Tha’,” the State Sangha said earlier this month.

In turn, U Wirathu, a notoriously anti-Muslim monk – who now faces a defamation suit for calling the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, a “whore”, – attacked Ma Ha Na for being part of the state apparatus. Religious Affairs Minister Thura U Aung Ko responded that the Sangha acted in accordance with its own laws, and without any pressure from the government.